Choice Hotels Asia Pac has reported a surge in corporate bookings in recent months heralding the long-awaited return of this traveller demographic to capital and regional cities.

Choice Hotels’ CBD properties experienced strong growth in corporate bookings in the first half of the year with Sydney leading the charge as the most popular destination for business stays.

“Occupancy levels in Sydney continued to climb steadily through May and June, and into July and we see this trend continuing in forward bookings out to the end of the year,” said Choice Hotels CEO, Trent Fraser.

“Adelaide CBD is also enjoying a solid recovery, with occupancy up 21% on similar market competitors, and 67% on 2021 figures.”

Rather than taking multiple trips in one month, corporate travellers are now opting to take longer stays than before the pandemic, Choice finds, and the trend towards ‘bleisure’ travel continues.

“Corporate bookings are currently averaging five days in comparison to four days in 2019, which indicates that travel habits are changing,” said Fraser.

“Workers are fitting more into their trips such as taking the time to network or attend events, involving more nights away for additional work or social engagements. They’re also tacking on leisure trips to their business trip, including a weekend with friends or family away with their weekly work commitments.

“This has translated into 20% growth on pre-pandemic length of stays.”

Many are concerned, however, that with health experts advising office workers to work from home due to rising case numbers could spell trouble for CBD properties.

“It means less activity in the city generally, but also means corporates can’t travel interstate or intrastate,” said Clarion Suites Gateway General Manager, Tony Cakmar.

“We have a lot of regional Victoria accounts and if they’re not coming into their city offices to work that will have a huge impact.”

Fraser believes that corporate travellers will be reluctant to return to working from home and is hopeful that the market will remain strong.

“Right now, corporate forward bookings are strong. This travelling segment has adapted and knows how to travel and stay safe with COVID and work within these new conditions.

“Our early figures for the first half of 2022 show this segment eclipsing 2019 figures – it’s a strong market that is playing catchup and they will be hesitant to return to remote working.”