Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta lending some clout to this latest U.S. Travel Association campaign could sway straggling states to relax their restrictions on business meetings, but nothing moves fast in a pandemic.
Tourists may be about to smash records at Hilton this summer. But its CEO is concerned by the lack of business travelers checking in — so much so that he’s now backing a new campaign, called Let’s Meet There, to ease meetings and events restrictions across the U.S.
Business travel was worth $791 billion to the U.S. economy and responsible for 5 million jobs, said Roger Dow, the association’s president, during an online event. But it’s now predicted to only return to 75 percent of this level by 2024, according to data partner Tourism Economics.
“It’s certainly too long, and we need to look at how we make this go faster,” he said.
Hilton’s Nassetta is now aligning the hotel giant with the association’s calls for consistency and pointed out that, while some of his hotels remain closed in New York, properties in Florida were open and hosting events.
“The longer there’s a two-speed system, the longer it takes for the big cities to benefit,” he said during the association’s Reopening Business-Related Travel webinar Tuesday.
Highlighting record numbers of airport travelers during the Memorial Day holiday period, Nassetta said the domestic leisure market had returned.
“I would expect from a leisure point of view at this point that we will have the best summer that we’ve ever had in the history of the business,” he said.
“Having said that, business travel is lagging significantly due to restrictions and lack of guidance, both federally and at state level. If we want to make that recovery sooner, which we think is possible … we need business travel and particularly meetings and events to restart,” he added.
The campaign is calling out “outdated attendance limitations,” and Dow said he was waiting for clear guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
It has partnered with the Ohio State University on producing scientific-based evidence for conducting safe events, and Dow hopes this new “data-driven campaign” will communicate the difference between professionally managed meetings and events and what he calls large gatherings.
During the event, he also noted just one-third of businesses were engaged in business travel at the present time, which is hampering the return of events.
“We have a problem. We have a patchwork of reopening protocols, from state to state and city to city. Business leaders don’t know what to expect when they go to a different destination. We need a consistent look around the U.S.,” Dow added.
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Photo credit: Christopher Nassetta, president and CEO of Hilton, speaking at Skift Global Forum on September 18, 2019, in New York City. Nassetta is backing the U.S. Travel Association's calls for consistent hotel reopening guidelines. Skift