If you’ve had the pleasure of working in the hospitality industry for any amount of time, you’ll recognize a consistent theme among the people who drive it: it feels like a family. A family full of funny, smart, thoughtful, welcoming people who do their best to BRING their best to the job every day. And, while the realities of the pandemic have made it harder to be there for each other in person, we’re doing our best to get our Continental branch of the family back to the face to face, in person connections that are the cornerstone of the hospitality industry.
Our team’s calendar has always been full of job-site visits, conferences, and meetings with our project partners from coast to coast. In the time of Covid, we scaled back a lot of our traveling and, like the rest of the country, embraced the convenience of virtual gatherings in an effort to keep everyone safe. We participated in virtual panels and leadership training, learned new technologies, and found ways to “see” each other in person, on screen, across a thousand miles. But while those virtual meetings have successfully kept business moving forward for us, they were not ideal. When it comes to building relationships and camaraderie, there is no substitute for sharing space, a meal, and a laugh. That’s why when cities started opening up, and we had the opportunity to safely travel again last year, we took it. Over the last 19 years, we’ve learned that visiting a job site in person isn’t just about supervising the work, much like how meeting a customer for coffee isn’t about the caffeine. More importantly, it’s about growing relationships, and supporting the industry that supports us.
Our incredible industry never completely stopped for Covid. Construction continued throughout the pandemic, and the vast majority of hotels remained open and operating with skeleton crews to provide a warm welcome for travelers. Perhaps this tenacity can help explain the anticipated return to 2019 level room occupancy rates in 2022. According to the AHLA State of the Industry Report released in January, in 2022 “room revenues are projected to reach $168 billion, within 1% of 2019 figures and an increase of 19% compared to 2021.” The demand for leisure and “bleisure travel” is promising, even with the omicron variant of Covid causing concern among hesitant travelers. With positivity rates dropping substantially nationwide, non-business travelers are anticipated to be ready to hit the road again at pre-pandemic rates this spring.
While occupancy rates are up, however, the ancillary income generated by F&B, meeting and events at hotel properties is not. Business travel continues to be very slow to return, and large events and conferences are still lagging in bookings. AHLA’s report notes that a little over half of meetings and events will return in 2022.
While the realities of business travel may be in flux, one thing that is constant is our desire to make an impact within the hospitality industry. This year, the Continental team will continue to work hard to get out of our offices and off our screens whenever we can. We will attend conferences and industry events, and make plans to visit our clients, vendors, and project teams. We want to personally shake the hands of the hotel general managers who have kept hotel doors open despite labor shortages, extensive Covid prevention protocols, and, often, short-fused guests. We want to support the industry event organizers who gambled on hospitality leaders’ desire to travel again, proving that conferences could be held safely and responsibly. And we want to thank, in person, our own team members who have kept projects moving forward by showing up – every single day. We hope you’ll join us in hitting the open road this year, and we challenge you to help move the needle toward a full return to business travel.