In the past few months, I’ve heard various brand execs report that business travel was showing signs of life and the outlook for group booking in the second half of the year and beyond is improving. As a prime example, Marriott President Stephanie Linnartz recently stated, “Group and meetings have surprised us quite a bit. I think many of us thought the individual business traveler would come back before groups and meetings, but surprisingly meetings have come back more quickly. Our group booking pace for this year, and particularly into ’23 and ’24, is quite strong.”
Of course, that’s a good sign for the lodging industry as a whole, but the real reason for optimism came yesterday when Google announced that full-time workers would be returning to their respective offices in early April.
This likely signals an opening of the floodgates for major U.S. corporations to bring back their employees, at least in some way, shape or form. In fact, earlier this week American Express, Meta Platforms Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co all decided to reopen their offices this month, according to the Wall St. Journal. Furthermore, Microsoft employees returned to work at the Redmond, WA, headquarters this week as well, and President Joe Biden called for the “vast majority” of federal employees to return to the office in his State of the Union Speech on Tuesday.
Just to be clear, in a nod to the ‘new normal’ all of these private sector companies are employing some sort of hybrid working approach for their employees. In the case of Google specifically, that hybrid models entails them coming in three times a week and work remotely for home two days. The company had been scheduled to bring employees back in January and then the surge of the Omicron variant put those plans on hold.
However, with COVID drastically declining and treatments and care improving, the time is now to open things up again. Consider that Google alone has more than 150,000 full-time employees, but the real impact of the announcement is what it represents and that is hopefully a full-scale return to business within the U.S.
Companies that have put a halt to their employees traveling should be considering, if they haven’t already, sending those workers back out on the road. If and when that happens, we should see a drastic increase in hotel demand across the industry and a long-term rebound.