US Business Travel Increases, Still Lags Behind Leisure Travel

Barclay Grayson, an established presence in the Portland, Oregon, real estate community, oversees the BPM Real Estate Group as senior vice president. Integrally involved in a variety of hotel development projects, Barclay Grayson has a strong focus on trends affecting the hospitality sector, as the US moves back toward a new normal of business openings and resumed travel.

The trends for business travel across the first half of 2021 present a slow, but steady increase that still lags leisure travel. As reported by the US Travel Association in a June webinar, domestic leisure travel has already reached 99 percent of its pre-pandemic levels, while business travel is only at 69 percent. Estimates place the latter sector as attaining pre-pandemic levels in 2024, should current trends prevail.

The impact of this uneven recovery is stark: In 2019, domestic leisure travel generated spending of $724 billion, while business travel contributed $270 billion to the economy. In 2020, the numbers had fallen to $555 billion and $88 billion, respectively. One major issue is that only a third of US businesses are engaging in travel of any sort, due to wildly varying restrictions on large gatherings from state to state. Until restrictions are lifted consistently and safely in most markets, professional events and meetings will continue to lag.

The silver lining is that vaccination rates have exceeded expectations. As a result, a reopening of business travel, and corresponding boost in hotel demand, may occur more rapidly than many expect.

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