When Will Business Travel Return?

Updated: May 21

With 'Staycation' being the industry buzzword of the summer, Austen Bushrod fears hotels are losing sight of the changes in business travel.


Has a nice ring to it. Feels warm, cosy… homely. I am even planning one myself. Go visit some UK places that I haven’t had the time to take in properly in my years of travelling around on business.

Yes, I can talk about the benefits of Norton Canes versus Keele Services, but I have never shopped for pottery in Stoke. You get my point.

Staycation. Perhaps the most dangerous word to the hotel industry in 2021.

Right now, the industry (quite rightly) is focussed on getting reopened. However, there is a storm in the distance. I can see the clouds gathering and somehow in the euphoria of reopening, Stay cations, and general excitement, I think we're missing the long-term picture.

When the press and the public talk about hotels, they are naturally drawn to the holiday market. After all, for many people, the mention of a hotel automatically leads them to thoughts of summer breaks. For the industry, we are so desperate for some good news and positivity – perhaps we have fallen into that trap too.

When I look at the overall hotel market in the UK, I never forget our significant reliance on business travel to generate our profitability. This goes for the wider hospitality industry also. Think about the last time you had a meal out midweek and how many expense accounts were being used across the restaurant.

The UK hotel industry is desperately longing for a slice of the Staycation pie – but let’s be realistic. For every hotel that fronts onto the beach at Bournemouth, there are 2 near an industrial estate in Bolton.

But what will become of the 50%+ of UK hotel stock that relies almost totally on the business traveller? Also, remember that even if you don’t rely solely on the business traveller, your hotel can still catch a major cold from the change in business habits.

I don’t want to cut across the industry excitement and the hospitality spirit that is being seen – but I do want to encourage every hotelier to think beyond this summer, on into 2022, and what the changing business habits might mean for their hotel.

It is not all doom and gloom, but hotels that can face-up to the pending storm will stand a better chance in the long term. Be under no illusions, tough times are coming – many will not survive and those that do will have to significantly adjust to the way they work.