Previous year, 2021 was better than expected. However, there are still many objective difficulties. On one hand, seasonal hotels have to face the insecurity of the coming summer season. Additionally, they have to deal with cash problems to which are added the refunds from customers’ vouchers that remained unused. On the other hand, for many hotels, 2021 was quite similar to 2020 in terms of low occupancy and reduced revenue, with the most typical example being city hotels, which did not see business travel recovering. So the difficulties hold up well. Here, we will see some trends and how to “take advantage” of them for better financial results. I hope it will be a “guide” for better sales, for a demanding year.
Flexible cancellation policy will continue to be a priority for travelers
Reservations with a flexible cancellation policy have prevailed in the pandemic and that does not seem to be changing. We would say that all bookings made on a non-refundable basis are either last minute or with a very small booking window (close to the arrival date). According to the World Tourism Organization (WTTC), in Europe, 89% of travelers in Spain, 84% of travelers to the United Kingdom and 87% of travelers to France reported that flexible cancellation, reservation or refund policies are more significant now than before COVID. In addition, with Booking.com’s 2022 Travel Predictions, the industry-leading industry will continue to prioritize flexibility, with travelers ranking cancellation (33%) and free reprogramming (32%) as top priorities for 2022.
If flexible policy is a big risk for you, as you may have a hotel with limited capacity, consider a partial refund policy instead of fully flexible.
In case you need the cash flow offered by Non-refundable bookings, try applying a one-time free booking transfer policy. That is, when someone cannot travel, has the option of changing/moving the reservation at least once, before being charged with 100% cancellation fees.
Invest in technology
The pandemic changed travelers’ habits and, in addition to choosing flexible policies, brought many last minute bookings.
According to Hyatt’s CEO, more than 65% of full-service state-owned hotels and more than 75% of budget vacation bookings were made four days before arrival in June 2020 in the United States. This was the smallest booking window the company had ever seen. These new data, combined with uncertainty, competition and inadequate historical data, have made the forecasting process extremely complex.
Technological solutions enable us, not only to analyze this data and make the right decisions, but also to “predict” the demand that is created, through real-time searches for the destination.
More direct bookings
Since 2020, there has been an increase in direct hotel bookings. There may not be a single explanation for this trend.
Initially, the big OTA’s reduced their advertising budgets. Please be reminded that the amounts traditionally spent by the largest online travel agencies are huge, with Google as the main ad provider. Specifically, in 2019 Expedia Group and Booking Holdings spent about $ 11 billion on advertising. By 2020, this amount had been reduced by 60% (PhocusWire). In addition, due to the pandemic emergency, travelers turned to hotel websites to find information such as health regulations, cancellation policies, etc. As long as we overcome the restrictions and the traffic returns, the only sure thing is that the advertising budgets of the big OTA’s will return.
It is an opportunity not to lose the momentum acquired by the hotels for communication and connection with the visitor. Keep the site as a valuable source of information, and “build” it even more. Enrich it with experience, activities and the uniqueness of your accommodation. These are hardly highlighted on an OTA page. And that takes us to the next big thing:
Experience, Conscious travel, Experiential travel…
Either way, the meaning remains the same: Our customers are not just looking for accommodation. The journey acquires meaning, the rhythms become slower, the overall experience takes over. 49% of people say that travel restrictions due to the pandemic made their vacation more important than before. 46% plan to spend more on vacations next year (ABTA Travel in 2022). People want to travel like never before and experience it meaningfully, to connect with the destination, its people and its culture. Personalized experiences and experiential travel will become even more important in the new era.
Will be trending the years to come:
Customer experience, Conscious travel, Local communities, Sustainability, Thinking beyond price, Technology, Personalization