In 2022, let’s make plans to get back to business—in person. 

Events like CES 2022, held this week in Las Vegas, are setting a strong example by kicking off the year with a live, in-person event. Video calls and virtual meetings got the job done over many months of the pandemic, but they are no substitute for a safe, in-person meeting. The personal connections spurred by face-to-face meetings result in increased productivity, more fruitful business opportunities and stronger relationships—things that you can’t easily achieve virtually. 

The travel industry is well-positioned to continue leading the charge back to in-person gatherings. We know a lot more know about the virus—and have a lot more tools in our arsenal—than we did in March 2020. As stated in a review of best evidence led by scientists at The Ohio State University, professional meetings and events (PMEs) have the advantage of being structured gatherings where mitigation factors can be enacted to protect the health and safety of those in attendance. Researchers found that PMEs have not been “super spreader” events as long as the proper protocols are in place. Additionally, 81% of Americans who have traveled for business in the last two years have been vaccinated—a rate much higher than that of the general public. 

PMEs are also a critical component of the travel industry’s recovery. Despite making up just 20% of total trip volume, business travelers account for a disproportionate 40-60% of lodging and air revenue. As domestic business travel is not expected to fully recover until 2024, the travel industry’s overall recovery can be accelerated by a robust return to in-person PMEs. 

To achieve this, U.S. Travel will continue elevating the value of PMEs and the science-based evidence to support their safe return. The recent integration of the Meetings Mean Business coalition under the U.S. Travel umbrella will also strengthen industrywide coordination to support business travel’s recovery.  

The spread of omicron feels like a significant setback at the start of a year that was supposed to be different than the last. But we are in much better place than we were in January 2021. We have the tools to allow us to gather in person, meet with customers, conduct business and reignite that spark that only comes from face-to-face meetings. It is time that we use them. 

In 2022, let’s meet again.