Face-to-face meetings, events and business travel are more important than ever, according to a new report by the San Diego State University School of Hospitality & Tourism Management and American Hotel & Lodging Association.
“Whether organizations are looking to boost productivity, organizational strength or collaboration, they’ll be better able to achieve these goals with business travel and in-person meetings. And as America transitions from pandemic-era virtual settings to more of a ‘new normal,’ businesses and organizations that resume business travel and meetings more quickly can gain a competitive edge over those that do not,” said Carl Winston, founder and director of the L. Robert Payne School of Hospitality & Tourism Management at San Diego State University.
He bases this conclusion on research Winston’s university did recently on behalf of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA). Among the top results: The virtual options businesses were forced to turn to during the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic don’t provide the same impact as face-to-face when it comes to facilitating productivity, building organizational strength and fostering collaboration for more than two-thirds of those surveyed.
This gels with results of another recent survey conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of AHLA that found that nearly two-thirds of workers and 77% of business travelers agree that, though screen time is still on the rise due to virtual and hybrid work arrangements, bringing back in-person experiences such as business trips and conferences is more important than ever. This is even more evident among millennials, the largest population in the workforce, they found. In fact, 80% of millennials say they prefer in-person communication with their colleagues, which could mean organizations that provide face-to-face connections between coworkers and clients could have a potential advantage when it comes to employee recruitment, retention and client relations.
Winston, who co-led the analysis with Florida International University Chaplin School of Hospitality and Tourism Management Associate Professor Dr. Lisa Cain, found that, in fact, the pandemic created a greater need for face-to-face interaction, and that the COVID-necessitated reliance on virtual meetings negatively impacts workplace culture and team building, as well as reduced productivity.
“There is a time and place for using virtual meeting platforms, but business travel and the face-to-face meetings it facilitates generate more positive outcomes for individuals, organizations, clients and customers in a way that may just be irreplaceable,” said Cain.
While business travel and group meetings and events are on the rise this year compared to 2021, they aren’t yet pacing with the pent-up demand hotels are seeing with leisure travel, according to AHLA’s State of the Industry report. Due to lingering corporate travel bans and restrictions, a full recovery to pre-pandemic levels isn’t expected to come until 2024, the research found. However, global business travel is forecast to grow by 14% this year, and will reach 80% of 2019 levels by Q3, barring future impediments due to COVID or other factors.