As vaccine distributions continue worldwide, the demand for traveling is returning as evidenced by airlines and hotel bookings. Tripadvisor says 67% of Americans plan to travel this summer, and the “Big Four” – United, Delta, American and Southwest – U.S. domestic airlines agree that leisure travelers are rapidly returning to air travel over the next couple of months.
So, the big question: when will business travel rebound? When will companies feel it’s safe or justified to resume business travel again?
The simple answer – when in-person events return.
While virtual meeting technology provides better efficiency for both time and money, nothing can replace the unique aspects of attending trade shows, events and business meetings in person. One of the biggest losses from virtual meetings is what happens before, around and after those main live events. Beyond the planned programming, business executives can network, catch up on long overdue discussions and book additional appointments around the city of the main event – all while masked and sanitized.
Let’s look at three areas of lost networking opportunities when business travelers can’t do in-person events, and then let’s also look at which locations in the U.S. have live events planned on the horizon.
Sharing a Meal: Before or after the formal meeting, many smaller groups break out for dinner to allow for exponential returns of relationship-building or sharing of additional ideas. In fact, 77% agree that a main benefit of face-to-face meetings is the ability to read others’ body language and expressions – something not easily done via video conferencing or phone calls.
In the Halls: Between sessions, coffee breaks provide side meeting opportunities to connect with new contacts or catch up with old friends. The power of networking “in the halls” is invaluable and makes a difference when 50% of closed-won opportunities consist of two meetings or more.
Dedicated Time & Attention for Connections
Face-to-face meetings are of greater significance to all when some or all attendees traveled to the destination in order to participate. Events allow for carved-out time from typical office meeting schedules to talk business and help get the most ROI out of traveling. 84% of remote workers actually prefer to meet in person when possible to make these important connections.
These factors make the in-person meetings more impactful and produce better results, such as closing more sales, building better relationships and expanding your network, than the instant sign-on and sign-off of meetings. Furthermore, a TripActions survey reported 90% of respondents said that business travel is essential to company growth. The desire and organizational need for business travel is apparent, and now it will be put to the test.
The Good News: Events Are Coming Back
In the U.S, several cities are reopening to some degree for business trade shows, including Las Vegas, Orlando, Dallas and Atlanta:
- Las Vegas is currently allowing meetings and conventions at 50% capacity or 250 people before June 30. It’s been reported that statewide restrictions will lift June 1, except for face coverings, which will still be mandated.
- Orlando’s Orange County Convention Center is open, following CDC Guidelines, without reduced capacity requirements. Orlando’s New6 reports the convention center will have 95,000 attendees for their upcoming spring and summer events. Interestingly, New6 notes that the convention center will also remain a regional COVID-19 testing and vaccination site, coinciding with forthcoming meetings and events.
- Dallas’ Kay Bailey, Hutchison Convention Center, will host two events where I will be in attendance representing Nomadix: AAHOA 2021 in August and HITEC 2021 in September. The convention center has a full schedule of events starting in June of this year.
- Atlanta’s GWCC and GICC are both open and follow CDC guidelines for social distancing.
These attendance numbers illustrate the demand and acceptance for moving back to in-person, traditional events. Conferences and events are the key to bringing business travel. And for those still a bit wary, the CDC provided guidance that assures fully vaccinated individuals may travel freely (domestically) without a need for testing before or after their flights, as long as they wear a mask, avoid crowds and wash or sanitize hands frequently. All of this is excellent news for the travel and hospitality industry.
The reopening of these top U.S. convention cities will not only kick off increased business travel but sustain it into the future as well. After an in-person large trade show, the business that originated there will continue with the appropriate mixture of business travel and video calls, all bolstered by a live experience.
Speleos Dravillas is Chief Revenue Officer and responsible for Nomadix’s go-to-market strategy and revenue growth through the execution of technology integration partnerships, strong channel and customer relationships, and industry alliances. He also is responsible for global sales and channel growth strategies and their plan executions.
This content originally appeared on Hospitality Net.