By Robert A. Gilbert, CHME, CHBA, President and CEO, Hospitality Sales & Marketing Association International (HSMAI)
As another tumultuous year is behind us, we are looking forward to 2022 and its new opportunities, with eyes open to the potential negative outcomes of COVID-19. Members of the HSMAI Americas Board of Directors met last month and expressed what many of us are feeling: excitement for a year that could bring tremendous new business with the reopening of borders and a full return to travel, along with a bit of trepidation that the year may not be as fruitful as we hope.
While many travelers are back to journeying around the world for both business and pleasure, the Omicron variant is currently surging, putting a (hopefully) temporary pause on that for others. Since March 2020, we’ve faced many ups and downs as restrictions have come and gone and come back again. However, I, along with many members of the board, remain optimistic that the coming year will finally bring the recovery we’ve been hoping for.
This year, many of us cautiously began to travel for business again, which reinforced how valuable face-to-face interactions and connections are. I believe many people share that sentiment and will continue to find ways to gather safely in person in the new year and beyond. Being together is invigorating, which will hopefully contribute to a continued positive mindset for all of us. We all want to get back to traveling safely both personally and professionally, and even if variants continue to evolve, science and safety will continue to evolve as well, allowing us to move about freely again.
In addition to concerns about how COVID-19 will continue to impact our industry, our board members are thinking about how to handle labor challenges. While it is impossible to predict what will happen there, if we try our best to make our industry welcoming and beneficial to those who wish to become a part of it, hopefully 2022 will prove to be fruitful in that area as well. My best advice is to develop your pipeline for talent and make sure you are taking care of the talent you currently have.
Overall, we have more positives than negatives to look forward to. Our board members are hoping to see more of their colleagues in the office and more of their international peers in person, and there’s optimism toward how the changes of the past two years have sparked innovation in the way companies are rebuilding. And even if 2022 doesn’t bring everything we are hoping for (one board member wonders if we’ll see our first tourist sleep in space or the metaverse), we as an industry are still on the right path, and I believe this next year will bring greater recovery for us all. As we head into January, it is important to continue to stay aware of the ever-changing best practices and safety protocols to make sure we are optimized for the greatest possible comeback.
I wish you all a very happy new year. Continue to be safe and keep your eyes open for trends to navigate your path to further success in 2022.