July 15, 2024

Changing landscape

Jason Long, Senior Vice President HRS, outlines key trends impacting the hospitality sector as business travel starts to recover

Covid-19 has driven multiple changes and altered the managed travel landscape. Some trends are new while other existing ones have been accelerated.

HRS, with our unique vantage point at the intersection of lodging programme procurement and hotelier relations, sees three key trends impacting corporate hospitality in 2022 and for years to come:

The redefinition of work spaces

Perhaps the most tangible trend to result from the Covid era is the decentralisation of workforces. This was evident as companies navigated the pandemic without using their expensive offices, let leases expire, and saved significant money as ‘working from home’ became the new norm.  

As countries re-open and companies bring staff together, hotels are reacting. Renovations inviting daytime office scenarios and small meetings are becoming common. Corporations seeking locations for staff to collaborate are looking to their established hotel partners for solutions. After all, why not work with suppliers familiar with your expectations?

Technologies enabling the shopping and booking of these options are on the horizon as hotels optimise and repurpose their resources.

The digitalisation of corporate travel data

The second trend is the reality of digitalisation. We now operate in an age where APIs deliver unprecedented access to what used to be walled gardens of data and vital information. The availability of real-time data facilitates new ways of collaboration across multiple parties serving corporate travel programmes, creating newfound transparency.

“As countries re-open and companies bring staff together, hotels are reacting”

The downstream impact offers immense potential for dynamic, continuous procurement for travel leaders of any size programme, from domestic scenarios to the complexity of multi-nationals.

We see this outcome with clients through the expanded reach and use of payment technologies. As digitalisation allows for 97% invoice collection with 98% accuracy, the foundational data elements – including Level-3 invoice data – are aligned for this new era where budgets are smaller and every line item is scrutinised.

Best of all, this data drives clear intelligence that spurs programme leaders to take nimble actions that address ever-evolving issues.

Moreover, our industry’s financial partners are making concurrent investments to enhance their value to corporates. The most recent example of this is HRS’s global partnership with Citi, announced earlier in November.

Sustainability is now a top procurement priority

The third key trend we see is sustainability. Employees and customers are increasingly factoring in a company’s carbon footprint as they make decisions tied to their careers and everyday purchases. Governments are implementing carbon-related taxation scenarios that impact every company’s financial performance.

Our industry needs to fully commit to addressing climate change. We see initial positive steps, such as the increased use of sustainable air fuel, and the accommodation sector implementing tactics to reduce carbon emissions while driving smarter water and waste management.

Hotels in 72 countries have gone through the HRS Green Stay Initiative, with prominent chains Accor and Marriott pledging to participate. In Orlando, 14 prominent global travel companies announced their commitment to work with GBTA on sustainability issues.

“Our industry needs to fully commit to addressing climate change”

On the buyer side, corporate sustainability and procurement officers are tasking travel management to define strategies to reduce the carbon footprint of business travel.

Dozens of Fortune 500 companies authored communications to hoteliers as part of their RFPs for 2022, requiring them to submit metrics on carbon, water and waste to be considered for preferred supplier status.

These actions – with expenditures steered to suppliers that make tangible steps towards greener everyday operations – will expedite our industry’s progress.

Jason Long is Senior Vice President HRS, overseeing a global team of sales and business travel experts targeting multi-national corporations with significant lodging expenditures