The travel industry looks a lot different today than it did a year ago. And it will look a lot different a year from now than it does today.
Recent estimates from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) show the global economy will absorb a $5.5 trillion loss from the travel and tourism sector in 2020. Clearly, ongoing pandemic complications have saddled the entire industry with adversity, but there’s some good news: it’s not insurmountable.
The travel industry has shown signs of recovery in recent months. However, the ways people are traveling and the ways they are thinking about traveling have changed dramatically.
Alternative lodging options (i.e., non-hotels) have surged to the top of traveler preferences. Recent data shows two-thirds of travelers who are considering alternative accommodations cite “lower risk of virus exposure” and “less-populated area” as key selling points—so in many ways, we already know what guests want during COVID-19. Now let’s take a look at some other telling trends.
The good news is this: people want to travel. Travel search trends are rising around the world, and in the U.S., travelers are gravitating toward destinations closer to their homes. The latest numbers certainly support that trend:
The likelihood of travelers renting a car is three times higher than pre-COVID standards, which makes sense considering 4 of 5 travelers don’t plan to eclipse the 1,500-mile mark on their next trip.
In addition to staying reasonably close to home, travelers are also increasingly more interested in activities they can enjoy safely while following social distancing protocols. So they are flocking to off-the-beaten-path destinations more than ever before, meaning lesser-known cities should have a big opportunity on the horizon.
Online travel agencies are responsible for a quarter of U.S. travel revenue. In 2019, OTAs generated nearly $300 billion; in 2020, that number obviously dropped significantly.
But that isn’t going to last. Recent studies show that travelers are 57% more likely to book their trip through an online travel site now compared to before the pandemic. A big reason for that is convenience: OTAs are a one-stop shop that allow travelers to browse, plan, and compare their options.
OTA shoppers typically have a gameplan, too:
Additional motivating factors of online travel shoppers include reward points, promotions, and bundled offers. The point is: people not only want to travel, and are ready to travel, but they’re out there searching for places that fit their unique needs.
Trust is a critical component in all this. As a property manager, you have to take the necessary steps to make travelers comfortable by not only gaining their trust—or, perhaps, re-gaining their trust—but also keeping them well-informed.
It starts with health and hygiene protocols. Traveler expectations have understandably skyrocketed, and before potential guests even consider booking a stay, they want to know about all the measures in place to keep them safe.
Honest messaging resonates with people, especially now. Here are a few numbers to keep in mind: roughly 90% of travelers want to know about cleaning and sanitizing efforts; more than 70% are looking for details on nearby activities that are open for business; and about 60% of today’s travelers want to know about activities they can enjoy while avoiding crowds.
Grounding your listings and marketing in transparent, well-tailored messaging is an excellent way to positively connect with travelers moving forward. A few more things to focus on if you want to keep pace with industry trends include:
You already know what today’s travelers are looking for—detailed, transparent messaging, fair rates, ultra-safe health protocols, flexible cancellation policies, and so on. Check all those boxes while also going above and beyond in other areas (such as providing great visual content) to get the upper hand on your competition, especially in the eyes of OTA shoppers.
Reviews and ratings have always been important in the travel industry, and the current climate is no exception. Nearly 75% of travelers read a property’s reviews before booking a stay, and now, they’re looking for specific notes on pandemic-driven concerns like cleanliness.
Roughly 70% of travelers want to receive details about amenities before they check-in. Along those same lines, nearly 60% say they’re willing to share their arrival time—and any special needs they have—in advance of their arrival in order to improve their stay.
Protocols change quickly these days. Maintain a close eye on local guidelines and make sure you’re aware of (and implementing) the most up-to-date regulations. That way, you not only ensure your guests’ safety, but you can also avoid potential financial penalties from authorities.