Pre-pandemic, 70 percent of Uber employees traveled for work, and Marriott’s global sales focus was on hosting business travelers. Those came to a halt in 2020, and companies were forced to get creative. Now that they’ve each been through such a unique time, these companies are looking toward the future of business travel and the direction it will take.

Susan Anderson, global head of Uber for Business, and Tammy Routh, senior vice president, global sales, Marriott International, chatted about the future of business travel at a recent virtual lecture hosted by Uber for Business.

Routh said Uber started asking companies via surveys when they were planning to open offices and bring employees back.

“We certainly equate offices opening to business travel,” said Routh. “It’s not always the employees of that company traveling; it’s also those who are going to see somebody, like vendors, suppliers and consultants. The fall seems to be when they think offices are opening and when we’ll really see a spike in business travel.”

An important consideration will be helping customers understand how to price business travel now, Routh added, explaining that it’s hard to conduct an annual RFP process when nobody really knows what’s going on. It will take a lot of dialogue, partnerships and trust to figure out how to work through it. She said business travel will come back, but it will come back differently, and that’s OK.

Anderson agreed that people want to get back on the road, see their clients and spend time with their teams. She cited many reasons as to why the need for business travel remains true today, including the fact that trips are needed to build relationships. Post-pandemic, however, the consciousness level is up and people will factor sustainability and inclusivity into their planning.

The panelists agreed that the way they work and engage with colleagues and customers has changed, and the hotel experience and what people want out of it is evolving. As business travel returns, travelers will look to maximize their time away, what many are referring to as “bleisure,” the blending of business and leisure travel thanks to more remote work accessibility.

The new partnership between Uber for Business and Marriott aims to address several new realities. Customers can now earn Marriott Bonvoy points when they take an eligible Uber ride or make an eligible Uber Eats order. There are additional bonuses for things like ordering Uber Eats to a Marriott property.

While this offers an incentive to the business traveler, it can also be used by companies working with hybrid teams, for example.

“If you’re thinking about employee engagement, think about travel as part of that, yes, but if you’re going to have a hybrid workplace, how do you leverage things like delivery to make it feel holistic and consistent for the experience?” Anderson asked.

Those in the travel and hospitality industry need each other, and that became extremely apparent during the pandemic, Routh added.

“I hope we keep that partnership mentality and come together to find ways to both be successful,” said Routh. “Relationships have always mattered, but we got systematic with our processes. In the pandemic we sat back and found better ways. I wouldn’t have met everyone at Uber for Business if we hadn’t had this time to come together. We need to keep this goodwill going so we’re all successful in the end.”