Kevin Rosa is director of sales and marketing at Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa. With more than 30 years of experience in sales, marketing and incentive travel under his belt, Rosa is well-versed in what it takes to be successful in the hospitality industry. His knowledge and expertise creates long-lasting relationships in business-to-business environments combined with integrating the latest industry trends into each strategy.
Natural Settings, Safety and Flexibility Will Continue to Drive the Return of Business Travel
It comes as no surprise that the past year has significantly slowed down group and business travel. While digital platforms such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams have proven an effective mode of keeping in touch, there is no replacing an in-person conversation. We all have an inherent desire to travel, explore and feel connected. With more than half of the U.S. corporations not currently traveling stating that they plan to resume domestic business travel within the next three months, the sentiment will continue to grow. With that in mind, destinations that speak to travel needs and wants will gain an increase in traffic.
Nature Is Trending
Exploring natural settings, such as coastal areas and lush landscapes, has been one of the biggest trends we have seen in travel during the pandemic. As nature-filled experiences continue to drive bookings for both work-related and pleasure-focused trips, hotels that provide both will continue to see an increase in visitors. Here in Florida, we have the advantage of providing beachfront access, tropical surroundings and stateside location as international travel remains in flux. The Sunshine State provides the ideal blend of business and leisure by allowing for a morning of meetings followed by an afternoon of sunbathing with the family.
The environment of a group or event setting appeals to everyone’s need for face-to-face communication in order to build up connections. The teambuilding aspects of corporate gatherings creates a deeper sense of comradery, one that cannot be developed across a screen.
Customizing the On-Site Experience
Providing an ideal setting is the first step, with the next being what is made available on-site. Working in the hospitality industry takes the personality trait of desiring to help people create memories. That means remaining flexible and versatile and keeping your finger on the pulse of what different kinds of travelers are looking to experience.
Part of remaining flexible and adhering to what groups are looking for is providing additional safety features that speak to the current travel climate. People are looking to get back out there, and corporations are driving initiatives to reunite their team members. Hotels that go beyond the standard health and safety protocols (i.e., enhanced cleaning measures, social distance capabilities and mask-wearing) to also provide the option to have on-site testing upon arrival or HIPPA-compliant contact tracing will see more business. With more than a year-and-a-half into the pandemic, the technology is readily available, all it takes is the hotel finding the right partner to administer and begin offering it.
Smaller, leaner events will also continue to drive business travel. Groups see the value in meeting and desire to do so but in a more secluded setting. A shift in focus has been more emphasis on the décor and comforts of the accommodations rather than the food and beverage—a factor that had previously gathered more weight and attention.
Especially in the current climate, empathy plays a key role in speaking to what groups are looking for in an event setting. It is important for hoteliers to take a collaborative approach to create the best itinerary that speaks to the dates, space, focus of the event and price points. While there will be more standardized approaches and groups that desire such, it should not be out of the question to tailor the experience to each customer—that is also how you drive return and build loyalty. Listen to the customer and build around them.
As a strong human instinct to begin reconnecting safely remains, hotels that adhere to a flexible approach when it comes to business travel and consumer-driven incentive offerings will find success in attracting groups that begin to meet again.