Amadeus unveils five trends for the U.S. group travel

Forward-looking on-the-books 2022 U.S. hotel group occupancy rates already match 2021 and outperform 2020.

As hoteliers evaluate their group business opportunities for 2022, a new report from Amadeus combines hotelier insights with Amadeus business intelligence data to reveal the key trends that will guide the group travel and events market in the year ahead.

According to Amadeus’ Demand360 data, 2022 is showing a significant rise in group travel booking rates. As of March 17, the on-the-books group performance in the U.S. for 2022 already exceeds final group performance for the prior two years, a 122% increase from 2020 and a 50% increase from 2021. With nearly eight months to go in the year, there’s significant opportunity to close the gap to pre-pandemic levels.

The five trends that will define group travel in 2022 are:

Changed group travel requirements

  • Amadeus MeetingBroker data reveals that significant changes in group travel will persist in 2022.
  • In 2019, 58% of event RFPs were for groups of 50 people or less, which increased to 63% in 2022. In addition, the average lead-in time for an RFP has shortened from 223 days in 2019 to 193 days in 2021.
  • Hotels in non-traditional destinations are seeing increases in group travel bookings. In 2022, the company sees Anchorage, AK, and Tuscaloosa, AL, in the top 20 U.S. markets, while urban areas like San Francisco are still experiencing lower occupancies when compared to pre-pandemic activity.

Lean teams have to do more with less

  • Both sales and operations teams will have to restructure and adapt to handle a higher volume of smaller deals with reduced staff.
  • The return of the group market dictates a restructuring of sales teams to win new business. Reward structures also need to correlate with salespeople bringing in new business and those nurturing relationships with existing clients.
  • There has been a shift to selling centrally and executing locally with sales teams now having a direct connection with the on-property experience.

Hybrid and in-person meetings are here to stay

  • Hybrid meetings and events are now an established part of business travel as facilitated by significant technology enhancements.
  • Hotels need to reassess their processes and identify where they can outsource to third-party tech experts to free up staff to focus on guests.
  • The in-person experience at a hybrid event matters more than ever to ensure guests feel value in attending. Similarly, hotel event managers can stand out by helping planners new to hybrid events tie together the in-person and at-home experiences.

Meeting planner relationships are even more crucial

  • Nurturing planner relationships will be key in this climate defined by tough negotiations.
  • Speed of RFP response will remain important as volume increases. Amadeus data shows that RFPs from meeting planners increased by 51% in 2021 compared to 2020.
  • Fully integrated systems will be key to winning business with access to real-time market data playing a central role in successful RFP negotiations.

Innovative partnerships are unlocking more potential

  • New alliances between hotels and businesses are helping to broaden reach and secure bookings.
  • Hoteliers with strong data insights into guest profiles place themselves in a better position to negotiate interesting partnerships to grow new revenue streams.
  • Modern technology and CRM solutions are enabling hotels to refer and share bookings across portfolios, or independent hotels with similar profiles.

“While the picture for 2022 is still evolving, there is cause for realistic optimism in the U.S., where signs are pointing towards a continuation of the momentum that built around group travel in Q4 of 2021,” said Daniel O’Keefe, SVP hotel property solutions, hospitality, Amadeus. “One of the key takeaways from this report is the importance of both historical and forward-looking data as a prerequisite for overcoming a number of the challenges facing meetings and events executives during a pandemic. In the context of reduced sales and operations teams, accurate data and information is critical, and teams need the expertise to act on it efficiently.”

Dana Cariss, VP, revenue strategy, CoralTree Hospitality, added, “Continued innovation across our industry in the face of uncertainty is driving our recovery. Hotels are striking new partnerships to take advantage of changes to some company’s ways of working to remain competitive. Meeting planners are reacting to dynamic shifts in the fundamentals of group travel and the persistence of hybrid or remote working. This offers a new opportunity for hoteliers to turn to modern technology to help adapt to the changing market.”

In partnership with Salesforce, the report paper leverages insights gathered from Amadeus’ MeetingBroker and Demand360 business intelligence data, as well as interviews with hoteliers, industry experts and Amadeus executives to aid hospitality professionals in preparing for the return of group business.