Patricia Page-Champion: “85% now of business travel is through small to medium businesses.”

Tuesday, November 7, 2023


Greece Press Conference

As the travel industry adjusts to the post-pandemic landscape, leaders discussed emerging trends and shifts in consumer behavior at the World Travel Market 2023 in London. These trends reflect the changing dynamics of business travel and leisure experiences.

Small to Medium Businesses Dominate Business Travel

Patricia Page-Champion, Hilton’s Senior Vice President and Global Commercial Director, highlighted a significant transformation in business travel. She stated, “85% now of business travel is through small to medium businesses.” This shift underscores the growing influence of smaller enterprises in shaping the travel industry.

The Rise of “Bleisure” Travel

Another notable trend is the increase in “bleisure” travel, where individuals combine business and leisure aspects of their trips. Page-Champion noted that one in four travelers now bring a loved one with them on their business trips in 2024. This trend is partly facilitated by the rise of flexible working arrangements, allowing more flexibility in travel planning.

Changing Customer Preferences

Hilton’s customers have expressed a range of post-pandemic preferences. Some of the popular add-on requests include pet-friendly hotels, confirmed connecting rooms, and electric vehicle (EV) charging facilities. Sustainability has also become an essential consideration for travelers, including their choices for events and accommodations.

Experience as the New Luxury

Peter Krueger, Chief Strategy Officer and Chief Executive Officer of Holiday Experiences for TUI, emphasized that “experience is the new luxury.” He explained that while customers still purchase package holiday components like hotels, flights, and transfers, it’s the overall travel experience that motivates their decisions. Sun and beach destinations alone are no longer sufficient to drive sales.

The Economic Benefits of Sustainability

Krueger highlighted the economic advantages of sustainability efforts. He cited an example where TUI installed solar panels at hotels in the Maldives powered by diesel. The company expected to recoup its investment in one and a half to two years. Sustainable practices can generate significant revenue, especially for companies operating in sunny locations.

Challenges in Sustainability

However, Krueger noted that some governments had hindered sustainability initiatives by blocking requests to build solar fields due to continued investments in fossil fuels. This serves as a limiting factor for companies striving to adopt sustainable practices fully.

Shifts in Source Markets and Destinations

Krueger also observed shifts in source markets and destinations, with North America compensating for any decline in European travel to the Caribbean. European travelers are showing budget-conscious behavior by choosing all-inclusive or affordable destinations like Bulgaria.

Importance of Technology

Krueger emphasized the importance of technology, especially for a company with a customer base as extensive as the population of Australia. Technology helps gather data, enabling targeted marketing efforts. This data-driven approach has led to higher “look to book” ratios and the ability to provide personalized experiences, especially in mass production.

Encouraging Regional and Sustainable Travel

Morocco is focusing on regional travel by opening more offices in Africa. The destination is also promoting sustainable community tourism to attract overseas visitors while supporting local communities.

The post-pandemic travel landscape is marked by a dominance of small to medium businesses in business travel, the rise of “bleisure” travel, changing customer preferences, and a growing emphasis on sustainability and experiences. Technology plays a pivotal role in customizing travel experiences and gathering valuable data for more targeted marketing efforts.

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