Global View: Affluent U.S. Travelers Anxious to Travel, New Hotel Brands and Europe’s Hotel Health

The U.S. travel industry launched a major campaign recently with the clear message for Americans: It’s OK to start planning your next trip—whenever it may be. The “Let’s Go There” campaign extends into 2021 and is the result of an industry-wide collaboration of more than 75 businesses and organizations (think Marriott International, American Express and Delta Air Lines).

According to Travel Agent's Matt Turner, research that shows planning travel makes people happy (and that same research shows people are generally not very happy right now). The goal of "Let's Go There" is to get Americans traveling again as soon as it’s safe to do so, and that’s an economic play. Before the pandemic, travel supported employment for one in 10 American workers but more than half of those jobs were lost between the onset of the pandemic and May 1.

That’s a mighty number and spells terrible hardship for many who have been left jobless but if there is any glimmer of light, it’s that Americans really, really, really want to travel as soon as international borders open up to them. In other words, people want to go, they want to spend money, but there are very, very few places that will currently accept U.S. travelers.

Luxury Travel Advisor hosted a virtual roundtable recently with top travel advisors and the consensus was wealthy consumers are bursting to fly away to their favorite far-flung luxury place.

“Obviously, business is down considerably, but the demand is there. We are busy still fielding lots of questions. Where can I go? When can I go? That’s constantly changing, so it’s challenging for the advisors to continue to keep up to date on all of that and what the restrictions are. We definitely have pent-up demand, though, both on the corporate and leisure side," said Eric Reader, EVP of Connoisseur Travel, a top travel agency in Washington, D.C. handling high-profile clients for both corporate and leisure travel. 

Based on the West Coast, Dan Ilves, EVP of TravelStore, which has seven branch offices throughout California, is seeing a similar trend and that is keeping him bullish on the future for travel.

“The pent-up demand is huge, especially among the luxury travelers,” said Ilves. “The strength in the cruise sector seems stronger than in land. Most of the deposits that we’re getting for new business is trending more towards cruise than land FIT. I’ve seen some data that suggests that the loyalty of the cruise passenger is stronger, which is interesting. Once we get through this, it should be a very strong year for all of us. We’re staying optimistic.”

New Hotels to Watch

As U.S. travelers wait for the travel floodgates to reopen, hotel companies are expanding their reach during the pandemic. Hotel Management's Jena Fox reports that IHG (owner of the InterContinental and Holiday Inn brands, among several others) is about to unveil its two-year-old Voco brand in the United States. 

IHG has 12 properties flying the flag worldwide with a further 28 in the pipeline. 

The company has three signed franchise agreements for U.S. Voco hotels, said Julienne Smith, IHG’s SVP of development; all are conversions.

“The first is a 50-room heritage—or historic—hotel called the Franklin Hotel located in the Upper East Side of Manhattan. The next is a 50-room hotel, and only three years old, located in St. Augustine, [FL]. And finally, the Tiger Hotel, which is another historic hotel based right outside of Mizzou (University of Missouri), and this one has 64 rooms.” All three of these hotels will be open by the first quarter of next year, Smith said, noting that one might open a little sooner. 

Keeping Hotel Staff Stress Levels Down

Hotel Management also hosted a virtual conference recently called Hotel Optimization. “Elevating Employee Well-Being” was a hot topic of the day, where it was noted that anxiety issues can emerge from uncertainty and lack of control. As such, a good way to minimize employee stress is to reduce uncertainty with clear, honest communication, said Asian American Hotel Owners Association (AAHOA) chairman Biran Patel. “Communicate with them on a regular basis, make sure that their concerns are addressed, and make sure that they're coming to an environment that they feel comfortable with,” he said. To that end, Sloan Dean, CEO of Remington Hotels said that he, Remington’s COO and the company’s head of HR have been hosting weekly Zoom meetings for all associates, including those who have been furloughed. “We've not missed a week,” he said, adding that the leadership team answers questions from the employees. “We had one week where we had over an hour of questions,” he noted.

New York News from Bar & Restaurant

Bar & Restaurant reports that New York State Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced that indoor dining may resume on September 30 for New York City, nearly six months after the operations in the city shuttered due to COVID-19 concerns. There are a number of rules that must be adhered to in order to reopen, including capacity capped at 25 percent.

Bar & Restaurant notes that at 25 percent capacity, the economic financials facing bars will be continue to be steep and nearly impossible to turn a profit but forward momentum is encouraging to see after museums, gyms and other activities were allowed to reopen without any news for the hospitality industry for months.

The New York governor is requiring that one patron from each party will have to provide contact information for contract tracing, a measure that has proven difficult to enforce in other states that have tried similar measures. Washington state originally required logging of customer information but their governor, Jay Islee, quickly switched courses and made the activity optional.

Meanwhile, in Europe…

Hospitality Insights’ editor-in-chief Katherine Doggrell spoke with Robin Rossmann, managing director, STR, hotel benchmarking group on the potential recovery for Europe’s hotels. “It’s like looking at a long-term weather forecast. You believe the next week, but further out, so much can change. There’s nothing to suggest that the numbers are going to bounce back to 50 percent or 60 percent but there’s nothing to suggest that it will drop down to 10 percent, there is enough business on the books,” said Rossmann.

“Business demand is only going to come back after people return to the office. In many countries in continental Europe, more than two-thirds of people are in their normal work location. In the U.K., it’s one-third, but this is changing rapidly. When they travel for business, it’s not going to be all business travel coming back at the same time. How they travel and the reason for travel will change; is it to drive sales, for an internal meeting or an industry conference? In that order.”

The company said that in Europe, gateway cities were seeing occupancy at 20 percent to 30 percent, while regional markets were up 40 percent to 60 percent with rates much lower for cities.

Quote of the Week:

Hotel Management’s Elaine Simon has just interviewed the newly named CFO of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Michele Allen, who shares advice for career advancement within the world of finance and hospitality:

“We all face obstacles and setbacks in our career and what I've found is that how one reacts and handles those obstacles is more important than the obstacles themselves. I learned very early on that if I was going to be successful in the finance world, which is typically male dominated, I needed to have a voice and opinions on important matters and that opinion needed to be educated because credibility is so important.”