Skift Take

A European business leader group has spoken out during the hotel group’s latest Masters of Travel gathering. Their views cement several trends that have been picking up pace since the pandemic began.

A sizeable reduction in corporate travel, relative to 2019 levels, will become a permanent feature across Europe, Accor has warned.

The hotel giant has predicted 20 percent of business meetings have gone forever in a report published Monday, “to be replaced by virtual equivalents or the realization that they simply weren’t necessary in the first place.”

The new report forms part of Accor’s Master of Travel series, which recently convened business leaders responsible for corporate travel to share their take on future demand.

The consensus was the number of trips would be down by a fifth, compared to pre-pandemic levels, for 2022. One leader even predicted a decline of 50 percent.

The report cites two key reasons: an uptick in meeting technology, and a reevaluation of what constitutes a “business critical” trip.

An Altered Landscape

For business travelers, hybrid meetings are part of any talks about the future, according to Sophie Hulgard, Accor’s senior vice president for sales, Northern Europe, who co-hosted the event in Frankfurt. The ability to run meetings virtually or with hybrid technology is prized by business leaders — which will come as a relief for some event tech firms.

However, while fewer trips are forecast, Accor predicted travelers will “linger longer” and also increasingly shun hotels that fail to prove their green credentials.

“A one-night stay is now considered a premium and we encourage our workers to see if they can achieve more by staying longer,” one panelist said. Leaders’ names weren’t disclosed, but they represented the technology, finance, professional services, entertainment and pharmaceutical sectors.

More trips will also be merged into vacations in the future, they found.

Accor said a new “linger longer” trend was increasingly a factor for business travel, with one delegate explaining that “meeting four or five clients as opposed to one or two means fewer trips and less carbon”. That sentiment echoes views from as early as 2020, with growing numbers of companies calling time on the one-day business trip.

However, the report noted there was still a “compelling need” for face-to-face meetings, with Accor’s own research revealing that workers expect to make 25 percent more revenue through face-to-face meetings than virtual ones.

Greenwashing Backlash

Meanwhile, the leaders argued any business trip now needed to justify its carbon cost. “Offsetting is no longer enough, and our hotel partners need to prove they are actively reducing our footprint,” said one. Another delegate said if a supplier made false environmental claims, “the backlash will be huge.”

“Hotels without a clear green or target-based sustainable program won’t be considered as suppliers,” said another, with the panelists wanting third parties to validate suppliers’ green initiatives for peace of mind.

One leader also said that their company will switch to a carbon budget instead of a financial budget in 2023. Carbon budgets, alongside carbon penalties, could become commonplace over the coming years.

“… The future of business travel must banish inconsequential trips and replace them with business-critical travel that is sustainably planned and delivers for the employee, the employer and the planet,” said Accor’s Hulgard.

Tags: accor, business travel, carbon emissions, climate change, corporate travel, europe, hertz, hotels, sustainability, travel management

Photo credit: More business trips will be merged into vacations in the future, according to Accor. Accor