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Commercial Real Estate

Colin Fitzgibbons: Get Ready For a Post-COVID In-Person Activity Boom

The Hunt Realty Investments president is eager to get back to lunches, meetings, tours, and travel—and keeping his Skee-Ball skills sharp. He's not alone.

About a year ago, I took my three sons to a birthday party at Dave & Buster’s. Kids love that place, with its video games, sugary drinks, prizes, and other fun stuff. Truth be told, I didn’t mind it myself; they sell adult beverages too, and I like to keep my Skee-Ball skills sharp.

Unfortunately for us that day, there was a fight in the parking lot between two adults arguing over a stuffed animal, and one of them tried to shoot the other. Needless to say, there was panic inside the building as people scrambled for safety. Luckily, no one from our party or any other innocent bystander was seriously injured, but we were all pretty shaken up for a few days. On the way home, my boys told me they never wanted to go back to Dave & Buster’s again.

Colin Fitzgibbons

One month later, COVID-19 hit, and we didn’t go to Dave & Buster’s or anywhere else for that matter for quite some time. Now, one year later, one long coronavirus quarantine, home school, work-from-home, Zoom Teams, face mask, and hand sanitizer year later, and we would all happily go back to Dave & Busters in a heartbeat.

All of this has me thinking there could be a post-COVID boom coming our way in the near future. After World War II, we had the Baby Boom, and I think after COVID, we could experience something similar. Not a baby boom per se, but a boom of meetings, dates, business trips, conventions, flights, seminars, tours, and lunches.

Speaking for myself, I plan to go on a dining boom—meeting folks for coffee, lunch, or drinks is usually such a huge part of my week, and to have that completely cut out for such a long period of time has been jarring.

I also plan to go on an in-person meeting boom. Teams and Zoom are fine, but nothing comes close to the productivity of face-to-face meetings. Sure, some meetings could have been emails, but I don’t think real business can be conducted virtually. I don’t think great cultures can be created or maintained from home. And I think we are kidding ourselves if we call staring at each other through screens true collaboration.

Some people might be projecting the end of business travel or large-scale conventions, but not me. If I have learned anything this past year, it is the true value of these investments and experiences. Need me to fly to check out of property? I’m there. A seminar with an interesting speaker? Sign me up. Panel discussion with networking afterward? I am in!

I know I am biased and have a vested interest in the corporate real estate industry continues to thrive, and I acknowledge working from home and working virtually probably have a permanent place in our daily lives now. However, I think I am a pretty average guy and tend to believe if most people like something, chances are I will, too, and vice versa.

So, I tend to believe that there are many people out there like me who are itching to get back to work in their office, get back on the road—in restaurants, hotels, and conference halls and get out and about in general. I hope I am right about a post-COVID “in-person activity boom” (I am still workshopping the name), but either way, I cannot wait to get back to Skee-Ball.

Colin Fitzgibbons is president of Hunt Realty Investments.