It probably won’t come as a surprise when we tell you that Corona has a big impact on the travel market. Our business and our hotel and bungalow partners were hurt very hard last March. Luckily, as a specialist in domestic holidays, we had a relatively good summer that gave us hope. But with the number of daily cases increasing and governments opposing stricter rules, results are again under pressure as Europe is facing a second wave. The people’s willingness to travel is decreasing, and in some countries, hotels and holiday parks are mandatory to close their doors. The outlook on travel is still very difficult to make and will be highly dependent on a vaccine. We have to deal with the uncertainty together, but we also want to look forward.
With the autumn holiday completed and the winter coming, we wonder what our forecast is. What are the current search & booking trends? What do we expect for 2021? How will the “new normal” look like? We think it will be fundamentally different. A small inside at the trends we see at BookerZzz.
1. Uncertainty remains high and people are booking last minute
Visitors on our platforms are still very uncertain. We see that our conversion levels are lower than normal and our customers are searching & booking last minute. In the first two weeks of October, more than 80% of the searches were for arrival dates in the same month compared to around 50% in the same period last year.
With a 0 to 10 days booking window being popular, revenue managers will have to rethink their strategy. Lowering rates for last minutes won’t do the trick anymore. We also see that free cancellation & booking modification is one of the most important factors for customers when choosing their accommodation. Therefore, we advise our partners to maintain a flexible cancellation policy as the pandemic continues to be unpredictable and travelers are uncertain. We predict that having a flexible and stress-free cancellation policy is needed until at least the summer of 2021.
2. A bumpy road to recovery
Due to uncertainty and changing government rules, we expect occupancy to change often for our partners, which of course gives operational challenges. Governments are also applying strict rules on short notice with an almost direct impact. On a positive note, we see peaks in the willingness to travel when people are allowed to do so. This trend can go up (and down) overnight. Therefore it is important to stay flexible and our advice would be to keep hotels and holiday parks open as long as possible.
3. Domestic, domestic, domestic
If we look at our HotelSpecials & BungalowSpecials labels in the Netherlands, we see that the share of domestic travel is now almost 100%!
Also the Google Search Trends data has never seen a peak this high for holidays in the Netherlands.
The main focus for hotels and holiday parks should be on getting the domestic customers to stay with them, for example by working with (more) local OTA’s. We expect that domestic holidays will be an important driver in the near term and also the segment to recover the first.
4. Dinner & Wellness is popular
In the last few weeks, we’ve seen an increase in extra dinners and wellness facilities at hotels. In the Netherlands for example the restaurants are closed, but there is still the possibility for guests of a hotel to have dinner in the hotel. We see a peak in customers booking a dinner with their overnight stay and search filters such as “hotels with a restaurant” or “night away including breakfast” are most popular. If you are a hotel without a restaurant, try and search for a partnership with local restaurants to serve dinner as room service.
The same goes for spa treatments, which we expect to become more popular coming months as wellness centra were closed due to strict rules. We advise our partners to look into partnerships with spa providers to create additional value or offer other activities such as yoga, and meditation.
5. Nature get-aways
As mentioned in our previous article about the search & booking trends, in July rural destinations were popular due to the impact of Corona. With increasing infections in the big cities and borders closing, this trend accelerated even more than before. Hotels located in rural areas are also better able to hold their rates without having to offer big discounts.
However, with volume dropping all over the board, there is a big chance prices will go down again. Our advice is to start thinking about extra products you can offer guests. Think about self-guided tours in outdoor spots, outdoor adventures, or family-themed activities as social distancing is here to stay for a while.
6. Quality over quantity
Customers are looking for higher quality stays and we see this reflected in our data of the most used filters on our websites. Filter usage of “Hotels with a 9+ review” has increased by 46% and the filter usage of “5-star hotels” has increased by 60%. This suggests that as the number of opportunities to travel has reduced, customers are inclined to book a more lavish stay and are comfortable with spending more. We see a similar trend on our holiday park labels as well, where filter usage of “Luxury parks” has gone up by 20%.
7. The “Workations”
As the travel industry tries to adapt to these uncertain times, we see our customers also changing their behavior on our websites. The so-called “workations” (work + vacation) have become more popular during these times as we see an increase of 50% in the engagement with the filters “Bungalow with Wi-Fi”. We expect that the line for working from “home” and being on “holiday” will become less strict, with the possibility for customers to book longer stays.
8. Holiday parks are more popular than hotels
As a result of previously mentioned trends, we also expect holiday parks and vacation rentals to become more popular than hotels. Also mentioned by Google earlier, private accommodations are recovering faster than hotels. We can confirm this trend when we compare our booking trends on HotelSpecials and BungalowSpecials. Vacation rentals and holiday parks are perceived safer, easier to keep social distancing and you can manage your own dinner more easily.
9. Customers want to be inspired
More than ever, we see that customers are not searching for specific destinations. We see that the share of searches without a destination increased by almost 20%. Also, the share of searches with general search terms like ‘The Netherlands’ increased by 50%. Distance from their hometown is important to customers, but specific amenities are an important role to decide on where to book the next stay. As already mentioned, especially on offering specific amenities or packages a hotel or holiday park can stand out.
10. Contactless tooling and upsell
The last trend we see is more need for contactless applications to communicate with your guest. With more focus on ancillary revenue, there is a chance to make up for the loss of revenue. Maximize revenue by focusing on upselling ancillary services, not only on dinner or wellness but also on other unique ways to distinguish yourself.
Uncertainty remains high and the road to recovery will be difficult, we hope that we can help our partners in the best possible way to withstand the coming months. Travel is here to stay!
Let’s work together to get the customers back to the hotels and holiday parks once they are allowed and feel safe to do so.
Stay safe and healthy!