As US hotel occupancy is still down 50 percent nationally, and while hundreds of hotels remain closed due to the crises, new hotels continue to open in the market. Ultimately, the hospitality industry has started the road to recovery, which will happen in several stages and will vary greatly in speed across countries and regions. For hospitality & travel brands, success will depend on the ability of new and established companies to respond to some of the key trends that arose in 2020. Yet one thing is certain: as soon as travel restrictions are lifted, people will be boarding planes before you can say “travel”.
Here are some of the key steps who will lead to, the coming soon, Revenge Travel! Be ready!
Recovery, Phase 0 : Safety is the New
As the New York Times puts it, the most important word in the hospitality industry in 2021 is now “Clean”. As hotels and hospitality services are gradually reopening their doors, cleanliness guarantees will be a key decision factor before customers decide to book a stay. Since S2 2020, some of the world’s largest hotels have come forward to announce new cleaning playbooks.
Here’s what it might mean for brands from a digital perspective:
- Need for transparency in communications: During the research phase, it will be critical that your prospects and customers have access to information on what you are doing to keep safe.
- Make protocols & cleaning initiatives visible: these should be listed on your website and on your App (if applicable). Ensuring the information is easy to consume (e.g. video format) and easy to find will ease the user experience and create reassurance
- Leverage chat services: (chatbots or instant messaging) This can be a great & contactless way to ensure all customer questions on the matter are answered
Automation as a key enabler: contactless service acceleration
Hotels have been long moving towards automation, and the pandemic has heightened the importance and fastened the speed of adoption of contactless features. Recently Google Assistant Google Nest Hub has created a hospitality application, allowing guests to ask questions and make requests without having to go to the reception or pick up the phone. In the US, some hotels such as the Gansevoort Meatpacking in NYC and the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in Arizona are already capitalizing on the new tech.
Recovery, Phase 1: Domestic Travel as the Immediate Priority
The first phase of recovery in the hospitality industry is underway and majorly carried by domestic leisure travel, as business travel is still far from being back to normal with still very disparate levels of vaccination across countries. As such, hotels can expect weekends to remain the peak occupancy days for some time, as working days were prime business travel territory.
Furthermore, with regional restrictions still present in most parts of the world today, hotel prospect customers are likely to be city dwellers looking for an escape from their daily routine rather than coming from outside the city. These prospects are therefore very likely to live within driving distance from your hotel, and to book last minute.
Some of the immediate implications for brands from a digital perspective:
- Maximize your SERP presence: ensure you are visible in the high purchase intent moment for prospects nearby, with readily available hotel directions and key information
- Capitalize on nearby queries: maximize your visibility for consumers looking for an escape experience within driving distance of their home
- Prioritize local targeting: most of your prospects are likely to be within the same city as your hotel, possibly even within driving distance. Radius and regional targeting may be the low hanging fruits in your targeting capabilities.
- Automate to adjust to shorter lead times: automated bid strategies will help adjust to short lead times and concentrate budget no the highest purchase intent moments
- Promotions & Packages to help with low occupancy days: limited time incentives & packages can help fuel low occupancy week days
Recovery, Phase 2: Revenge Booking & Regional Traveling
While domestic travel continues to carry recovery for now, a recent study conducted by Club Med, the pioneer of all-inclusive resorts, found that 56% of Americans are planning to travel by Spring / Summer 2021, and find advance booking for holidays up 17% vs 2019. This revenge booking trend indicates a strong interest for social reuniting after over 18 months of distanciation. Brands will need to scale their efforts very rapidly and adapt to regional traveling as we move into the Spring/Summer season.
Additionally, the past year of restriction and cancelled holiday plans is leading to drastically increased pressure on the experience factor for hospitality & travel brands, with two main components of this experience factor being social reunion and a sense of escape.
Here’s what this could mean for your digital strategies:
- Address the reunion factor: the main objective of these escapes will be to reunite with close relatives and as such, prospect customers will pay attention to everything brands will do to enable and enhance their reunion with their close ones. From dining options to activities and special packages, keep in mind that socialisation opportunities will be just as important as the escape factor.
- Emphasize local experiences & activities nearby: local and regional travel is often about rediscovery. Leverage your digital media to encourage your customers to rediscover their region (local food packages, cooking class, museum or outdoor outings etc)
- Personalize communications: ensure you provide a seamless, personalized communication across your channels based on your customer information (activity registrations, event bookings etc.). Start these communications before arrival, to get your guests excited about activity possibilities and give them more time for planning.
Full Speed Recovery or Revenge Traveling
While domestic traveling is likely to continue throughout 2021, interest in international travel has spiked since the start of the vaccination. There is no doubt that revenge travel will take off as soon as restrictions are lifted, yet the pace at which this will happen for international travel is likely to be progressive and dictated by the rate of vaccination. Brands will need to start planning early to be ready for this progressive increase in demand, and meet new consumer expectations in terms of safety and sustainability.