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April 24, 2021, 3:14 p.m. EDT

Demand may exceed supply as CEO of one of the world’s biggest hotel groups sees ‘surge’ in bookings

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By Rupert Steiner

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IHG data show that 50% of its frequent travelers have already rebooked their travel that they canceled last year.

The business, which also owns Kimpton, Even hotels, Crowne Plaza, Staybridge Suites, Regent and Six Senses, has proven resilient during the pandemic. It had done some significant restructuring pre-COVID, which gave it more flexibility because it had taken some costs out of the business and could absorb the shock of the pandemic better than some of its competitors.

Read: Holiday Inn Owner Pins Hopes on COVID-19 Vaccine but Remains Cautious on Travel Recovery

“We had very good relationships with our banks so we got the best banking covenant waivers in the industry because they believe we’re incredibly well positioned for the recovery,” he says.

The pandemic has also caused changes in the way hotels operate — food menus and information cards have been replaced with details provided online and that is likely to change permanently — the cost saving is significant. Customers will be able to book room service by an app, check in and out of their rooms online, and cast content from their mobile phones onto the television in their room using a secure network.

But the biggest trend, Barr predicts, will be prompted by the reduction in office space and increase in people working from home.

“We think we’ll be able to attract more customers into our hotels who want to work and have meetings than we have in the past — we’re definitely going to see a trend in that,” he says. “We think that people basically having smaller offices will potentially be looking for other places to work.”

Similar to the spaces seen in WeWork offices, IHG is installing pods in lobby areas where individuals can work, and pods where four people can meet. “We’ve already redesigned our Crowne Plazas and Holiday Inns to have a lot more functional workspaces in the lobby versus your traditional lobby designs for the local community, and also people in the hotels.

“It’s another way for us to generate revenue from space which could otherwise just sit kind of empty during the good portion of the day,” he says.

Read: InterContinental Hotels Has Been Rallying. UBS Says It’s Time to Sell.

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