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Analysts and executives expect the summer travel season to be one of the busiest on record due to leisure travel, but the return of business travel remains one of the biggest question marks in the travel sphere.
Barry Diller, chairman of IAC and Expedia Group, has a more certain forecast when it comes to companies once again sending their employees on the road or into the friendly skies.
“First there’s consumer travel, but in a couple of years, all those people who said business travel is dead, they’re all dopes.” Diller offered that blunt assessment Friday during a CNBC appearance on Squawk Box with Andrew Ross Sorkin while promoting the opening of a $260 million New York City waterfront park spearheaded by his charitable foundation and his wife and fashion designer Diane von Furstenberg.
The sentiment goes against predictions by the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, who is also a majority co-owner of Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and predicted last year more than half of business travel would permanently go away following the pandemic.
“Business travel is going to come back because people need to be with other people in distant locations,” Diller said Friday.
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There is more of a swelling sense of travel optimism that falls closer in line with Diller than Gates.
Most hotel companies over the last month report group business in the back half of the year is strong, and Marriott’s business-transient bookings in China for the month of March were 5 percent higher than pre-pandemic levels.
The airline sector generally expects a corporate travel recovery to commence after Labor Day, but Alaska Airlines anticipates half of the business travel seen in 2019 will be back by year’s end.
“There is an explosion [of travel] coming out of the pandemic,” Diller said.