This year will be “a positive surprise” for many people in terms of business travel, especially the latter half of 2022, said Derek DeCross, senior vice president of global sales for IHG Hotels & Resorts, in the company’s outlook for SME, Corporate and Groups & Meetings report. The recovery, according to the report, is being led by small and medium-size businesses, noting an increase in spending on American Express commercial cards in the second half of 2021, led by small and midsize enterprises. IHG, said DeCross, expects continuing growth in consumer demand driven by milder travel restrictions, increasing flight availability and the return of global events. On the meetings front, IHG projects:

• More purposeful culture- and team-building events as people look to make the most of their time together;
• More small and midsize meetings as people are more conscious of the number of attendees;
• Strong growth in 2022 among SMERF (social, military, education, religious and fraternal) groups.

As for corporate transient travel, DeCross said hotels are seeing essential business demand return. “We’re looking forward to a strong year for business travel,” he said, “and are confident that we have the right programs in place to enable our customers to be successful, whatever their needs are.”