Those seats will need filling... demand for travel and hospitality choices will be on the slow burner for quite a while. It's best that businesses adapted to a mindset switch at the earliest. Image Credit: Gulf News Archive

When contemplating on this column, a question cropped up: Why do people travel? Sure, they could mostly be placed under two broad categories - business and leisure.

The query now among players in the hospitality sector is if this differentiation will stay, disappear or transform to something else altogether over the next 18 to 24 months.

While some of them would remain, several others could transform radically and take on an altogether different form. Here’s a verdict on what will change:

* Travel for business that includes invites to speak at conferences and be at trade shows

One of the luxuries of business travel is that they are often to destinations that have no dearth of luxury and temptations. Think Dubai, London, Las Vegas - events there incorporate fancy meals and entertainment as well as chasing business.

Verdict: To continue.

* Travel for sales meetings

The sales team would fly across the world to meet clients on a regular basis, often covering multiple cities within a few days. These are always characterized by late night arrivals, early morning meetings, and then on to the next destination for the next meeting. Depending on the product that needs to be sold, the samples need to be carried along. One can expect a lot of fake banter and cheap meals during these trips.

Verdict: Will convert to Zoom.

* Travel for board of directors and corporate meetings

The board members, CEOs and managers travel to locations where their companies may have an office. These are generally for a day or two. You connect with the people responsible for managing the branches and get a feel of ground realities. You also spend the time to strengthen the corporate culture.

Verdict: To continue, but truncated to 25 per cent of original levels.

There are various types of leisure travel too.

* Annual summer or winter breaks

Each year families look forward to these break when the parents take off from work and children have school breaks. It’s often an expensive trip and people may spend a good part of the year saving for it. There’s a trend of people staying at holiday homes. If you live in Dubai, the break generally involves a long-distance flight.

Verdict: International travel will convert to regional travel as well as to the Subcontinent.

* Annual visits home

It’s when you go home during the festive season to visit dear ones. This trip won’t require a fancy holiday home or hotel as you will be staying at home. Hygiene and sanitization are not a concern.

Verdict: Will continue, but with a delayed start.

* Visits to destinations: Pre-CoViD-19, one flew to southern Europe or wherever fancy took you. This will change, with Dubai residents looking closer home, to Oman or explore the UAE’s natural beauty. Hotels would make way for holiday homes at unique destinations offering personalized services.

Verdict: Will increase.

The COViD-19 and its impact would last for some time. The hospitality sector will have to prepare for the long-haul while the sector wins back the confidence of travellers left shaken by the virus.

- Vinayak Mahtani is CEO of bnbme, the holiday home operator.