Emily Friel, Director of Sales and Account Management, Amadeus, HSMAI Sales Advisory Board Member
As we navigate the complexities of a post-pandemic world, one question looms large: What is the future of corporate travel? I brought this question to discuss at the HSMAI Sales Advisory Board.
Internal Corporate Meetings: A Pulse Check
The members of the Advisory Board reflected a diverse set of strategies for 2024. Some organizations are maintaining the status quo — holding biannual in-person meetings and supplementing with virtual alternatives. The significance of face-to-face interactions is underscored by the resurgence of big brand conferences, with many reconvening in 2023 for the first time since 2019.
However, a notable shift is visible in certain sectors. Some companies in the Software as a Service (SaaS) have completely pivoted to remote operations, forgoing air travel to close deals. Such shifts could have significant implications.
Carbon Footprints & Cost Implications
Environmental considerations are influencing corporate travel choices. With organizations setting internal carbon limits, the cost of air travel — both monetary and environmental — is becoming a key decision factor. A large European company, for instance, had to halt travel after reaching its carbon limit.
Economic constraints, too, have reshaped meeting structures. External customer meetings remain crucial, but internal offsites and incentives, once considered indispensable, are now scrutinized for cost-effectiveness.
The Cost of Remote Work
The rise of remote work presents a dual challenge. On the one hand, it’s harder to get employees to events because of the dispersed workforce. Yet, as organizations like Shopify highlight, the “cost” of a virtual meeting can spiral out of control. A simple watercooler talk can balloon into a 22-person meeting, leading to inefficiencies.
But it’s not just about quantity; it’s about quality. Big sales teams feel the pinch, noting that restrictions on travel hinder their ability to connect with customers and internal stakeholders.
Championing In-Person Meetings
Despite these challenges, successful organizations will continue to value in-person interactions. The sensory experience of dining in a restaurant or the camaraderie of an in-person conference can’t be replicated online. For our industry to thrive, it’s crucial to emphasize the irreplaceable value of such experiences. After all, if we aren’t championing the significance of putting “heads in beds” and filling our restaurants, who will?
The successful hospitality brand of the future will be one that recognizes the evolving corporate landscape. Efficiency and intentionality will be key — we need to ensure every meeting and event delivers value. While large-scale meetings are rebounding, smaller regional ones seem to be dwindling. Recognizing and adapting to these patterns will determine our success.