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Hilton CEO: 'There's a huge amount of pent-up demand' — even for business travel

Jen Rogers
·Anchor
·3 min read

Close your eyes and think of one of your favorite family memories. Chances are good, really good, it’s from a vacation. A new survey from Hilton found nearly nine in 10 people count travel memories as some of their happiest. That’s part of the reason Hilton (HLT) CEO Chris Nassetta is so optimistic about travel rebounding post-pandemic.

“95% of people say they miss travel,” Nassetta said during an interview that aired as part of Yahoo Finance’s All Markets Summit on Monday.

Nassetta believes the uptick in leisure travel the past few months is only the beginning of a larger trend. “There's a huge amount of pent-up demand. People love traveling. They want to get out. And, by the way, even business travel,” he said. “People like business travel. It's a break from the monotony, in some cases, of their work.”

After six months of limited mobility, Hilton’s data shows 94% of respondents who travel plan to do so once restrictions and limitations are lifted. In fact, over 60% plan to make travel a priority and plan to take a “bucket list” trip.

Nassetta thinks it will take time, but given the demand trends, Hilton could be back on its pre-COVID-10 growth trajectory within a few years. He told Yahoo Finance, “I'm a big believer that when you wake up in two or three years, not unlike other crises we've been through, the demand patterns will look a heck of a lot like they did a year ago, in two or three years.”

IN FLIGHT - OCTOBER 22: A masked passenger is seen exiting the aircraft following a flight from Newark, New Jersey to Los Angeles, California on October 22, 2020.  The global pandemic has had a devastating impact on aviation and airlines don't believe they will see much improvement until a reliable COVID-19 vaccine is developed and distributed. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)
A masked passenger is seen exiting the aircraft following a flight from Newark, New Jersey to Los Angeles, California on October 22, 2020. (Photo by Michael Loccisano/Getty Images)

“Burning desire to get out”

The very same “work from home” trends that have helped lift stocks like Zoom Video (ZM) and Peloton (PTON), may actually help Hilton and other travel brands further down the road. Nassetta sees the ability to work from anywhere eventually bringing more travelers to hotels. In fact, he says we’re already seeing it. “People have a lot more flexibility with their time. So you put more flexibility with their time together with a burning desire to get out and travel and a burning desire to create new memories. And that's brought you a whole bunch of leisure business,” he said.

Nassetta is back to traveling about once a week himself. He just completed his first international work trip to Mexico. Without a vaccine, he thinks travelers will start to figure out their own risk-reward when it comes to safe travel. “If they're young, and they don't have preexisting conditions and are in very good health, at this point, I think there's enough data in where people are saying, OK, if I'm responsible, I actually can start to have some greater level of mobility. And I think, you know, that we will continue, I think, to see people more and more look at the data, make their own individual assessment.”

Eventually, though, Nassetta thinks a vaccine is needed for a full economic recovery. “I think vaccines ultimately help create a step change,” he said.

Watch the All Markets Summit
Watch the All Markets Summit

Jen Rogers is an anchor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @JenSaidIt.

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