Corona has hit the travel market very hard the last months. As a specialist with a lot of short distance hotels & holiday parks to offer to our customers we see our business picking up very fast again! So, what happened to us the last months? How is the landscape changing? What are the current search & booking trends and what do we expect? A small inside @BookerZzz (known for HotelSpecials & BungalowSpecials).
From the middle of march our bookings dropped to zero, this happened all in a matter of days. We had almost EUR 2.000.000 in missed revenue and our business dried up completely.
And our cancellations peaked to more than 1.000 a day! There were several peaks the weeks after when extra measurements were announced, impacting the possibility and/or the wish to travel. Our company had to move mountains dealing with all these cancellations, assisting both our customers, as our hotels and holiday parks. In total we lost more than EUR 800.000 in commission on holidays that were already booked the weeks / months before Corona hit us.
From the first day Corona hit us, we as a company were forced to take direct action, unfortunately this also meant we had to say goodbye to several good and appreciated colleagues. Further more, we reduced our marketing spent and asked flexibility and help from our suppliers.
Looking back to the last 4 months it has been a very difficult time for all of us working in the travel sector. One of our goals was to make sure we would get out of this crisis stronger. Due to all actions taken and with the benefit of being very strong in the domestic markets, we currently see light at the end of the tunnel, we are back on our old revenue level again (and for some markets even above!).
So, looking at our data, what are the main things to conclude, what can we learn from this and what can we share with our partners; hotels & holiday parks?
1. Traffic was always there
The impact of Corona was very clear on our bookings & cancellations, but one thing that was quite interesting to see was that our traffic never dropped that hard. People kept searching on our websites, we saw a big drop in our conversion as people did not want to book, but traffic always stayed relatively high. Also, the last weeks we see traffic reaching really high levels. A lot of people are still in doubt and orientating on their exact plans.
When we did a small research under almost 3.000 visitors on our website, we found that almost 60% of them were visiting the website just get some inspiration.
2. Domestic bookings are peaking
In all our markets, we see a really high share of domestic bookings. Even with other markets opening again, for example France – the normal summer destination for a lot of Dutch people, we still see that 90% of the bookings on our Dutch labels are for short distance travel. In the research mentioned above, 80% of the visitors on our website were planning a domestic holiday. 50% of the visitors even wanted their destination to be less than 2 hours traveling.
We even decided to build a cool functionality for this in our search box, which is now widely used:
3. People are booking a longer stay
As people are booking more domestic holidays they also increase their average lenght of stay. Compared to last year we say a clear increase in 3,4 and 5 nights stays for hotels. For holiday parks we see more bookings for 7 days or longer.
4. The effect of government rules is visible
As we are active in different countries, we could also see the direct effect of the rules imposed by the local governments. For example, in Sweden, that never had a “lockdown”, the bookings never dropped that hard. In Belgium, the rules were very strict and bookings stayed low for a longer time. The amount of website visitors in the Netherlands increased drastically when the prime minister said it was allowed to travel again. Where in Denmark there were no cross boarder bookings at all as boarders were completely closed.
5. Coast and rural destinations are most popular
Our customers are mostly interested in the coast and rural destinations. In the Netherlands, more than 20% of our total searches were for the Dutch coast for example. Especially in the beginning, when availability was still high. Research showed that people are very much focused on biking and walking at the moment. Holiday parks are therefor more popular than ever this year!
Another clear trend that we see is that 10% of the bookings for hotels is including diner. That is more than double compaired to last year. People want the insurance to have a spot for dining. Same growth we see for reserving a parking spot up front.
The bigger cities like Amsterdam, Stockholm, Brussels and Berlin are still far behind on popularity. Even with lower prices our customers are not interested in going to the cities. For bargain hunters this could be a chance.
6. Last minute bookings are popular
In the beginning we thought our customers would mostly book only for the summer holidays, maybe even already for the Autumn. But last minute bookings became, once people could travel again, very popular. Our customers were instantly interested in going away again in June.
7. Prices are up again
After a decline in prices the first few weeks, we see due to popularity of the domestic holiday that prices are above last years level. Our expectation is that this wil increase even more in the coming weeks.
8. People want flexibility and security
Customers are looking more closely to what they are booking. Therefor we introduced changes in our policicies together with our partners. Customers can now book packages that include last minute canceling and where they have to pay when they arrive at the hotel instead of upfront.