Unless you’re a coal miner, the way we work has changed as a result of the pandemic. If you’re Boris Johnson, this has – according to him – meant wobbling between desk and fridge and eating cheese and, as we saw at Tesla this week, any thoughts of working from home and you can do it permanently. Without pay.
So, like Johnson smelling the cheese, hybrid working is taking a while to find its way. But the overriding concern of employers seems to be that those work-from-home days are going to be all about the fridge and not about the work – despite the abounding evidence of increased productivity.
So far, so overtalked. But what about that other phenomena we are seeing in travel, which, in the UK is being illustrated right now by the volume of out of offices which will be greeting this email. That of the ever-expanding holiday season.
It’s fair to say, having noted the marked lack of enthusiasm for work this week and the unlikeliness of a rush back next week, that the long Jubilee weekend has been extended to two weeks, taking us into June. There are then only a few weeks until the start of the summer holidays, when Europe will be joining the UK in its holidaying, before we hit August, which is a month-long deadzone. Or welcome break for strategic contemplation, depending on your outlook.
Working from home has allowed us to be that bit more flexible and has certainly eased the queues at the post office. But it is also extending travel times (we’re willing to allow that you might all be digital nomads and you’re just travelling to work in different locations, in which case good luck fighting over the last power socket during your weekend at Gatwick).
So on the one hand; we’re Zooming more from the airport and not meeting up in person and on the other; we’re extending the leisure travel season. We have yet to see whether the pandemic is going to mean regular winter restrictions, but the recent results season is indicating that short booking windows are still very much a theme. The volatile nature of everyone’s finances thanks to inflation is not going to ease this any time soon.
The volatile nature of finances is currently playing out in hotels, with wildly fluctuating rates the theme of many properties which have yet to see trading even out post pandemic. Some are topping out with abandon and some not. This is, we hear, liable to change from week to week.
Those hotels who ditched their revenue managers during the pandemic will be consumed with regret, because we are in a whole new era of travel, in which 3D chess looks like a relaxing game for old and young by comparison.
It is at this point during an uncertain trading period when we talk about the end of the line for the under demolished mid market and this is no exception. The need for flexibility in all things – operations, rates, thinking outside the trip purpose and towards the trip person – it’s all relevant.
As ever in this sector, it’s easier to be flexible if you’re independent, so we look forward to seeing what guidance the brands are giving owners, in particular those who are on franchises and are in the category of ‘free but not free’.
To go back to our cheese-eating correspondent, if you can’t trade with your normal people, just find someone new. It seems simple. But for hotels fed on high and low seasons, corporate and leisure travellers, it’s all a bit much.