A Bit of Cheer: Holiday Travelers Returning to Hotels This Year

Another sign that the hotel industry is on the mend? The number of holiday travelers this year who plan to stay in hotels is on the rise, according to the Hotel Booking Index Survey from the American Hotel & Lodging Association.

The survey, conducted by Morning Consult, also says that hotels are cited as the top lodging choice among those who say they are certain to travel for leisure in the next three months.

The lodging association’s Hotel Booking Index (HBI) is a new composite score gauging the short-term outlook for the hotel industry. The 1-through-10 score is based on a weighted average of survey respondents’ travel likelihood in the next three months (50%), household financial security (30%) and a preference to stay in hotels for travel (20%). Based on the results of the survey, the AHLA Hotel Booking Index for the next three months is 7.1, or very good.

The survey found that the share of those who plan to stay in hotels during their holiday travels this season is on the rise. According to the results, 31% of Thanksgiving travelers plan to stay in a hotel during their trip, compared to the 22% who planned to do so last year. A total of 28% of Christmas travelers plan to stay in a hotel during their trip, compared to 23% who planned to do so last year. Among those absolutely certain to travel for leisure in the next three months, 54% say that they plan to stay in a hotel, according to the survey.

The survey didn’t bring only holiday cheer, however. The lodging association reported that overall holiday travel levels will likely remain flat, with 28% of Americans reporting they are likely to travel for Thanksgiving and 31% likely to travel for Christmas this year – compared to 29% and 33%, respectively, in 2021.

The survey also found that concerns about COVID-19 are fading among travelers but are being replaced by economic challenges like inflation and high gas prices. The survey found that 85% percent of respondents reported that gas prices and inflation are factors they are considering when deciding whether to travel during the next three months. That compares to 70% who said the same about COVID-19 infection rates.

The survey of 4,000 adults was conducted Oct. 14-16. Other key findings:

59% of adults whose jobs involve travel said they are likely to travel for business in the next three months, with 49% among them planning to stay in a hotel during their trip. In 2021, 55% of adults whose jobs involve travel said they were likely to travel for business during the holiday season.
64% of Americans would be concerned about delays or cancellations if they traveled by plane right now, with 66% of these respondents reporting a lower chance of flying this holiday season as a result.
61% of Americans say they are likely to take more leisure/vacation trips in 2023 than they did this year.
58% of Americans are likely to attend more indoor gatherings, events or meetings in 2023 than they did this year.
66% of Thanksgiving travelers and 60% of Christmas travelers plan to drive to their destinations, compared to 24% and 30%, respectively, who plan to fly.
“This survey bolsters our optimism for hotels’ near-term outlook for a number of reasons,” said AHLA president and chief executive officer Chip Rogers, in a statement. “The share of holiday travelers planning hotel stays is rising, plans for business travel are on the upswing and hotels are the number-one lodging choice for those certain to travel for leisure in the near future. This is great news for our industry as well as current and prospective hotel employees, who are enjoying more and better career opportunities than ever before.”

Still Quitting? Waiters and Fast-food Workers are Seeking Greener Pastures

Fast-food workers, chefs and waiters are quitting their jobs at a faster rate than are any other workers, according to a study released last week.

The study, from document-management tool SmallPDF, analyzed numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics to score every industry’s quit rates, the percentage of total workers quitting an industry every month, and quit levels, a measurement of how many employees quit in total each month.

According to SmallPDF, the accommodation and food services industry saw an average of 5.8% of its workforce quit between April and August of 2022, the period in which the study was done. That industry includes chefs, waiters and fast-food workers.

More than 773,600 of these employees left every month on average during SmallPDF’s study. In August of 2022, 128,000 more workers in the accommodation and food services industry left their jobs than did during the same month a year earlier. It’s little surprise, then, that fast-food and other restaurants are struggling to hire enough workers.

In second place in the survey was the retail trade industry, which includes jobs such as customer-service representatives, cashiers and stock clerks. An average of 600,400 employees quit these jobs every month from April to August of 2022. In good news for this sector, though, about 109,000 fewer employees quit these jobs this August compared to the same month in 2021.

The arts, entertainment and recreation industry ranked third on the list, a sector that includes fitness trainers, recreation attendants and musicians. About 7,000 more employees quit these industries in August of 2022 compared to August of 2021.

Fourth place goes to the professional and business services industry, including lawyers, accountants and architects. About 754,000 employees quit every month between April and August. The quit rate was, on average, 3.36% during these months. In a sign that workers are holding onto their jobs a bit more in these fields, August 2022’s quit number came in at 63,000 fewer employees than the quit level of August 2021.

Rounding out the top five is the transportation, warehousing and utilities industry, which includes pilots, bus drivers and truck drivers. An average of 199,400 quits took place in these industries every month from April and August of this year. August 2022’s quit level in these industries came in at 32,000 employees higher than August 2021’s level.

Working While Traveling? Marriott has a Space for You

Travelers tend to do a lot of work on their trips these days. This isn’t surprising: With so many people still working from home, it’s all too easy for vacationers to slip into work mode for an hour or two — or more — a day, even while they’re supposed to be lying on the beach, sitting by a fireplace or touring a national park.

This is why one of the globe’s biggest hoteliers is now introducing a product that provides travelers with more space on their stays, enough space, even, to set up their laptops and screens for a bit of mid-vacation work.

Marriott International on Nov. 9 announced that it is expanding into apartment-style accommodations with the launch of Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy. In a press release announcing this move, Marriott writes that it is responding to growing demand from families and other travelers who want more space in their vacation accommodations. This demand, Marriott says, stems from the blending of work and leisure travel.

Marriott already has 26 years of experience with its Marriott Executive Apartments brand, its apartment brand in Asia, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Latin America. With the introduction of Apartments by Marriott, the company is now bringing what it calls its service-apartment concept to the United States and Canada.

“Travelers planning vacations and long business trips today are seeking more choice in accommodations,” said Stephanie Linnartz, president of Marriott International, in a written statement.

Marriott is launching Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy in its upper-upscale and luxury segments,something that will set it apart from Marriott’s existing extended-stay brands.

Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy will feature a separate living room and bedroom, full kitchen and in-unit washer and dryer, but will be differentiated from Marriott’s existing extended-stay brands by not providing certain traditional hotel services such as food and beverage, meeting spaces and retail.

Apartments by Marriott Bonvoy will offer developers the opportunity to build new properties or convert existing properties, with a design approach similar to the company’s successful Autograph Collection and Tribute Portfolio lodging brands.

Marriott says that today’s travelers are seeking premium accommodations that provide home-like amenities as they combine work and leisure trips. According to Phocuswright research, three of the top five reasons for selecting an apartment-style rental are more room or space, access to a full kitchen and laundry and home-like feel.

What to do with Outdated Office Space? Turn it Into Apartments

Plenty of outdated office buildings dot cities across the country. Their number has only increased since the start of the pandemic: Companies, which are seeing more of their employees work from home, don’t need as much office space. When they do make a move, they’re seeking higher-quality Class-A space, leaving all those Class-C buildings with rising vacancies.

What to do with these unwanted office buildings? Many developers are converting them to apartment units. And according to the latest research from Yardi Matrix, this trend is showing no signs of slowing.

Yardi Matrix reports that the number of apartment conversions jumped by 25% in 2020 and 2021 when compared to 2018 and 2019. These conversions brought 28,000 new rentals to the country during the last two years. That’s a big jump from the 22,300 apartment conversions the country saw in 2018 and 2019.

This increase in apartment conversions has been especially strong in big cities. This isn’t surprising: There’s a serious shortage of apartment units in most major U.S. cities. Demand for multifamily units far outpaces their supply in these metropolitan areas.

What is surprising is how the increase in conversions compares to the rate of growth of new apartment construction. Yardi Matrix found that adaptive reuse apartments grew faster than new apartments by a count of 25% to 10% during that same 2020 and 2021 timeframe.

Office-to-apartment conversions grew at an even faster rate, jumping by 43% during 2020-2021 when compared to 2018 and 2019. In raw numbers, the country saw 11,090 apartments created from former office space in 2020 and 2021 compared to 7,762 in 2018 and 2019.

The number of office-to-apartment conversions in 2020 and 2021 represent an all-time high. Former offices made up 40% of all adaptive-reuse conversions to rentals in 2020 and 2021, again a record high.

“The residential market needs significantly more density in the areas of the largest cities, where the demand is greatest and where the tallest office buildings are located,” said Doug Ressler, manager of business intelligence at Yardi Matrix. “Existing building architecture is the critical starting point. Not all buildings are equally threatened by the work-from-home revolution. Larger office buildings in abandoned central business districts are better suited to conversion than the often-smaller office complexes distributed around the suburbs.”

Washington D.C. leads the nation in the number of apartment conversions, with 1,565 in 2020 and 2021. In the Midwest, Chicago tops this list, with 1,139 conversions during the same period, good for third-highest in the nation. Cleveland came in fourth in the nation with 837 conversions, while Kansas City, Missouri, took the ninth spot with 568 conversions.

Tech, Not Amenities, Key to Bringing Office Workers Back?

What will bring workers back to the office? Many companies are banking on flashy, high-end office spaces filled with amenities such as onsite cafes, fitness centers and high-tech conference centers. But a new survey suggests that these amenities might not play much of a role in convincing employees to leave their home offices.

According to a survey of 1,000 U.S. office workers commissioned by essensys, only one in five respondents said that amenities would bring them back to the office. But 63% of respondents said that technology and flexible workspaces do inspire them to work in the office.

Of those workers, 34% said they returned to their offices, at least on a hybrid basis, because they liked the convenience and layout of their office space. An additional 27% said they liked having access to multiple workstations, while 26% said they valued their office’s more reliable WiFi.

The survey also found that 81% of respondents are frustrated with their current office experiences and 52% envy the technology available in other office buildings.

“Many of the conversations we have had on the return to the office have been around investment into top-of-the-line amenity space,” said Jeremy Bernard, North American chief executive officer of essensys, in a statement. “While creating an attractive physical space is important, it’s only one part of the puzzle. Our research revealed that the real driver is access to in-office tech.”

More than half — 56% — of the 1,000 U.S. workers surveyed said that the tech in their offices enhances their ability to work.

What tech do workers want in their office buildings? Building-wide WiFi, sensor-controlled lighting and climate control and the ability to access space and services across a network of locations.

“Technology can’t be overlooked as a tool in the back-to-the-office battle,” Bernard said. “Against today’s backdrop of economic uncertainty, this can’t be, nor should it be, ignored. The modern office is completely changing. If real estate strategies don’t evolve quickly and support today’s occupiers, there will be even tougher roads ahead in the fight to remain competitive and relevant.”