Business travel—a key segment for certain lodging companies and airlines as they look to recover from the pandemic—remains a big wild card as the Omicron variant continues to spread rapidly.
“We’re trying to figure out what’s going on and to come out with some updated guidance,” a corporate travel manager told Barron’s on Tuesday.
Business-related travel falls off sharply during the holiday season, and this year isn’t any different, says Steve Reynolds, CEO of Tripbam, which helps companies with airline and hotel bookings.
“The big question is how big a bounce are we going to see come the first week of January?” he adds.
Reynolds says that based on what he’s hearing from clients, they don’t plan to change corporate travel policies due to Omicron.
Still, there are some anecdotal signs that companies remain cautious when it comes to travel. For example, the JPMorgan Health Care Conference, a longtime staple on the January calendar and held in San Francisco in normal times, will be virtual again next month.
“If we go back three months, six months, people were pointing to that conference as sort of ushering in the new normalcy,” says Patrick Scholes, an analyst who covers lodging and cruise line stocks for Truist Securities.
In a research note Monday, Helane Becker, an airline analyst at Cowen, observed that, “We continue to think business travel won’t come back until 2 to 4 weeks after people return to office, although we think we’ll be within 80% of prepandemic levels by year-end 2022.”
Meanwhile, the Transportation Security Administration said that 2,089,186 passengers went through its checkpoints at U.S. airports on Monday, up slightly from the previous day’s levels.
However, Monday’s TSA activity was about 20% below the same day in 2019—but nearly double what it was in 2020.
Write to Lawrence C. Strauss at [email protected]