“I may be optimistic,” he added, “but it is my hope that vaccination progress will increase dramatically over the next 60 to 90 days and that the fourth quarter and early 2022 will still be quite strong.”
Mr. Graf is among the few who believe that hybrid professional events, involving both in-person and virtual attendance, will disappear over the long run. Hybrid events “are not that efficient,” he said. “They’re more expensive and complex than if they’re just virtual or just face to face. And people have virtual fatigue.”
Peter Caputo, Deloitte’s U.S. hospitality sector leader, agreed that networking “is often invaluable” and difficult to replace by virtual means. But certain types of events, such as educational programming, can be successful online, he said.
Business travel started to return this summer. Delta Air Lines was “beginning to see a return of consulting and sales-related travel and higher volumes in traditionally business-heavy markets like New York City and Boston,” the carrier’s president, Glen Hauenstein, said in mid-July.
Both American and United Airlines also reported an uptick in business travel and said they expected it to continue to rise later this year.
“The majority of our corporate accounts have shared their expectation for travel to pick up moving into the fall, and we expect a full business travel recovery in 2022,” Rachel Warner, a spokeswoman for American, said last week.
Daily Business Briefing
After a rush of leisure travelers this summer, hotels said they were also starting to get more bookings for business travel for the fall. Before the pandemic, 20 percent of Hilton’s revenue was generated by groups and events of all types, including social events, and about 55 percent by individual business travelers, said Frank Passanante, senior vice president of Hilton Worldwide Sales, the Americas.