“It’s a benefit for the industry,” says Eileen Crowley, Deloitte’s travel leader. “These work-from-home travellers are spending more. There’s more potential there. They also fared a bit better financially during the pandemic, so they can increase their travel budgets as well.”
Kayak chief executive officer Steve Hafner agrees. At a Skift conference previewing the megatrends that will shape travel in 2022, he said, “When you work from anywhere, that means more leisure travel. If you’re liberated from an office, you can go to a lot of other places.”
Airbnb’s Lehane says the ability to take work where your family wants to go means that “now you can organise your work life with your family at the centre, as opposed to working your family around your job.”
And that also benefits hotels and destinations, as they become less reliant on excessively busy peak periods that have traditionally been deemed convenient times to travel—say, school vacation weeks.
Stays are getting longer, too. In a trends report for the year ahead, Airbnb shared that in the third quarter of 2021 (for which the most recent data were available), almost half of the nights booked on its platform were for stays of at least seven days, up from 44 per cent in 2019. One out of every five gross nights booked in the quarter were for stays of 28 days or longer.
And data from vacation property management platform Guesty suggest the trend of extended stays has continued to grow during the pandemic. In 2021, 14-plus-day bookings grew 33 per cent from a year earlier, with a cumulative rise of 121 per cent since 2019.
Business travel will have to be more fun
Don’t count out pure business travel—it’s still a thing. But it’s also evolving. “Work culture is really being stymied by distributed teams,” says Evan Konwiser, executive vice president for product and strategy at American Express Global Business Travel. “We didn’t realise how much we relied on offices for that. But now travel is emerging as a great way to de-commoditise your work experience.”
Passengers the world over often feel confused and in the dark about what is required for them to fly. Credit:AP Photo/Rick Bowmer
Gathering the team in a fun way, he says, has become a popular approach for 2022, even if a majority of companies are still opting to hold team-building events at their headquarters or in hybrid ways. But outliers—companies that are planning these retreats at, say, dude ranches—are increasing in popularity, spurring hope that vacation vibes can spill into business travel in the same way business has spilled into leisure trips.
Some are calling this a push for the “great reconnection.” Retreat-planning companies such as Troop and NextRetreat are among the travel industry startups that closed seed-funding rounds in 2021. And according to Skift, Salesforce.com’s Marc Benioff has even floated the possibility of building a “ranch-style resort for employees, where they can spend time team-building, take training sessions or even holiday with their families.”
One possible downside of blended travel is that people will forget the value of truly disconnecting. And the pressures of being “always on” may follow us wherever we go.
Much of that is still sorting itself out. But expect more work trips in 2022, even if it’s …….