Since the rollout of vaccines, travel interest and vacation planning are finally back on the rise. A recent TripAdvisor survey states 67% of Americans plan to travel in summer of 2021, a 17 percent increase from those willing to travel in Spring 2021.
As travelers start researching their first post-pandemic trips, it is imperative that hospitality brands appeal to shifting behaviors in their core markets. It is also vital to note there are worldwide inequities in vaccine availability which will impact who can travel and where vaccinated travelers can visit. As the world recovers, here are some emerging travel trends and behaviors that are expected to remain this year.
With over a year to dream, travelers have a pent-up desire to travel. TripAdvisor reports that 74 percent of travelers will spend more time planning and choosing a destination than they did in 2020. Additionally, travelers will spend over 60 percent more time reading reviews and selecting their accommodations. Hotel brands must ensure they capture guests early in the funnel, providing trip planning suggestions, promoting top destinations, and showcasing positive reviews to appeal to the desire to plan and research.
“Vaxication” Celebrations Are on the Rise
Nearly half of Americans surveyed by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA), indicate their comfort with the idea of staying in a hotel is tied to vaccinations. This has led to a recent trend – “vaxications,” or vacations celebrating being vaccinated. Brands can support safe vaxications for travelers with offerings such as Kimpton’s “Quaranteam Getaway,” which encourages safe traveling with individuals in your travel bubble.
New Business Travel Trends Emerging
Business travel may not return to pre-pandemic levels, due to the nature of remote work. However, there is alternative business-related travel to consider. The flexibility built into the newly distributed, remote workforce allows employees to work anywhere, in virtually any time zone. Workcations, where guests explore a destination while also working are more prevalent now than pre-pandemic. A study showed, 74 percent of Americans working remote would consider taking a workcation.
The idea of “bleisure” travel, mixing business and leisure, is here to stay, and brands should adapt to reach this audience. Showcasing spacious and productive in-room workspaces, business amenities like speedy Wi-Fi, and hotel features that appeal to the leisure aspect will help reach this audience.
2020 travel trends that are here to stay
Cleanliness Standards Are on the Rise
No one particularly wanted to stay in a dirty hotel pre-pandemic, but COVID-19 has changed the way we view cleanliness standards. A recent survey from the AHLA indicated that 62 percent of consumers are prioritizing overall cleanliness as a top-three factor when choosing an accommodation, up 24 percent of pre-COVID preferences.
We have grown accustomed to social distancing, hand sanitizing stations, and a new standard of cleanliness when entering a business. In fact, seven out of ten travelers want to hear directly from hotels on the safety measures they are taking.
Hotel brands should use their website, Google My Business health and safety attributes, and social media to highlight the safety and cleanliness measures that travelers can expect when arriving at their hotel to make consumers feel safe.
Flexible Travel Options Will Remain
Flexible travel means offering booking options that include altering reservations without penalties which has become an industry standard. Brands such as IHG, Hilton, and Hyatt continue to offer flexible rates to decrease uncertainty with booking.
Google joined the trend and released a flexible booking filter within its Hotel Search platform in June 2020. If a hotel does not offer free cancellation, it is filtered out, creating a lost visibility opportunity. To be eligible for the filter, ensure free cancellations are marked in Google and metasearch rates.
Spontaneity and Shorter Bookings Will Remain
In October 2020, IHG reported that 63 percent of Americans were making reservations on IHG.com within two days of their trip, compared to 29 percent last year (that’s a 117 percent increase!). As we move through 2021, 89 percent of American travelers intend to be more spontaneous than ever. Last-minute travel and getaways are a growing theme with how Americans want to travel and search for travel services. Provide incentives for last-minute travelers, such as getaway packages or last-minute rates.
Pandemic Pets Will Continue to Travel
In October 2020, the American Pet Products Association reported that more than 11 million households had welcomed a new pet during the pandemic. Meaning travelers want to bring furry friends along on trips and an increase in searches for pet-friendly hotels. To capture the interest, brands with pet-friendly accommodations should highlight pet policies, amenities, and any other perks that appeal to pet owners as well as ensure properties are marked as “pet friendly” in Google My Business.
How can we integrate this into hotel strategy?
How should hotels reach the 67 percent of Americans planning to travel this year?
- Create content that resonates with the way users are traveling, why they want to travel, and where they want to travel. Ensure brands address trends such as pet-friendly travel, outdoor destinations, and workcations through hotel content, packages, and advertisements. For example, Hyatt and Marriott have created Work from Anywhere and Work from Hyatt packages, showcasing spacious desks, Wi-Fi, and other amenities that reach business-leisure travelers.
- Communicate your health and cleanliness standards. Make content easily accessible on your site, at your property, and when booking. Let consumers know what they can expect when arriving at your hotel.
- Sell your outdoor venue space. Outdoor dining and nearby outdoor activities are attractive to travelers. Communicate ways you are making outdoor space available to guests.
- Focus on your brand management and reputation. More than ever, people are researching and planning. Ensure you are monitoring and responding to reviews, seeding reviews, and providing content for guests at every stage in the funnel.
- Be flexible and nimble. Every day there is new information available. For example, in the beginning of the pandemic, we did not want housekeeping in our hotel rooms, and now hotels create trust with top-notch cleaning standards. Stay up to date on trends and news, and pivot your strategy as needed.
The way we travel has changed tremendously throughout the past year and a half and will likely continue to morph as we move into a new state of post-vaccine normal. To connect with potential travelers, hotel brands need to stay agile in this ever changing landscape.