“We are still not seeing many of the larger companies going back to their office, but they are starting to travel”
ST. LOUIS — St. Louis hotel operators say they’re seeing more bookings from business travelers, a metric that, while still down from 2019, is growing optimism for the future.
“We knew leisure was stronger than anybody anticipated during the summer months, and a lot of that weekday travel was leisure,” said Todd Hotaling, vice president of revenue and marketing for St. Louis-based Lodging Hospitality Management. “What we’re seeing now is that as school gets back into session, (leisure is) getting replaced and growing with people still coming in town weekdays … it’s more of a business traveler, which is great.”
LHM said its average Tuesday occupancy across its 18 properties recently surpassed 60%, a 39-week high.
Midas Hospitality, the manager of 45 hotels, including 12 in the St. Louis market, is reporting similar figures.
Business travel now makes up about 20% of bookings, up from percentages in the teens earlier in the pandemic, said Linda Emmenegger, Midas’ president. Pre-pandemic, such bookings made up about 25% of bookings.
“I think people were just waiting to see what happened and then they realized nothing was happening,” Emmenegger said. “Nothing’s really going to change so everybody has to get back to business.”
“We are still not seeing many of the larger companies going back to their office, but they are starting to travel,” said Emmenegger, adding that relationships with vendors and customers can only develop in person.
The uptick in mid-week hotel bookings can also be attributed to increased convention and meeting activity, said Brian Hall, spokesman for tourism agency Explore St. Louis. “That gap between mid-week occupancy and weekend occupancy is going to start to even out, and that’s good for the industry,” he said.
The change comes as area COVID-19 hospitalizations are at their lowest level since July, and cases are starting to trend downward, the St. Louis Metropolitan Pandemic Task Force, a consortium of local health systems, reported this month.
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