Hoteliers Get Scrappy in Pursuit of Demand from Business Travelers

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Excerpt from CoStar

Leisure travel remains strong, but with many travelers going overseas, U.S. hoteliers have had to put more focus on business transient demand if and when it works.

Business travel demand continues to slowly but steadily inch back for hotels, but patterns have changed and hoteliers are now employing different strategies to maximize that business.

During the “Today’s Business Traveler” session at the 2023 Hotel Data Conference, Erica Lipscomb, senior vice president of revenue strategy for Crescent Hotels & Resorts, said most companies are still waiting for the business travel floodgates to open.

“We’ve all budgeted and forecast every [fourth quarter] that we’re going to have this amazing return, but it just inches along,” she said. “Right now from an entire portfolio standpoint, we are still lagging 2019.”

Chris Cheney, vice president of hotel performance and analytics for Stonebridge Companies, said the recovery has come in fits and starts.

“In the [first quarter of 2023], it felt really good, and we started to inch back to full recovery, then we plateaued” in the second quarter, he said.

Ultimately, the business travel recovery varies by market and hotel, Cheney said. Many markets driven by international business travel demand are still lagging significantly.

Lipscomb said the slow business rebound has advantages beyond the stronger leisure travel environment. Those include changes in sales culture to be both more thoughtful and more aggressive in getting the right types of business transient and negotiated demand.

“COVID made our sales managers really scrappy,” she said. “They had to go after business they’ve never targeted before or just business that came into their market. And if you didn’t want to take it and it wasn’t the right fit, you could turn it away.”

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