Concern about the coronavirus had a major impact on holiday travel volume last year, with many people choosing to stay close to home and get together with their family on Zoom. But even though the surge in COVID-19 cases reduced travel, more than 3.5 million people went through TSA checkpoints in late December 2020. And that’s just air travel. Nearly 85 million total travelers were projected to be on the move during the holiday season last year across all modes of transportation.
Though that still represented a drop from “normal” volumes, it’s a testament to the strong demand for travel services during the holidays. This year, some experts expect a spike in demand that will resemble pre-pandemic travel levels. TSA passenger data indicates that almost twice as many people have been traveling this fall when compared to last year, so strong travel demand during the holidays will likely push those numbers even higher.
As a travel insurance executive put it in The Washington Post, “People aren’t going to forgo being home for the holidays for a second year in a row.” That’s why hospitality businesses need to get ready for an uptick in travelers now. Digital forms are helpful as they can improve guests’ holiday travel experience, especially in a second year of disrupted travel.
Digital Processes Are Now the Default
One thing to keep in mind is that digital processes and forms have become the default option during the pandemic. Customer habits have changed for all groups and scrambled the old rules. For example, prior to 2020, many hospitality business marketers tailored outreach by demographics, appealing to older customers with high-touch concierge services and enticing younger guests with digital options for processes like ordering, booking, registration, etc.
There has been a seismic shift in the way people shop and get the goods and services they need. Even people who were previously reluctant to use apps, e-commerce platforms, QR codes, etc., have gained a comfort level with these tools over the past year and a half. To cite one statistic, a Mobiquity survey found that curbside pickup orders from Boomers rose 300% during the pandemic [PDF].
So, for hospitality businesses gearing up for what could be the busiest travel season in a couple of years, now is a good time to think about what processes they can streamline by going digital. The good news is that free and low-cost digital forms are available online. Hospitality businesses like hotels, restaurants, etc., can deploy digital forms quickly and easily — no coding skills required.
Digital Forms Can Upgrade the Guest Experience
Whether it’s a hotel stay, an airline flight, a car rental or a local adventure like a holiday baking class or a birdwatching hike, when travelers interact with the hospitality sector at any point, it becomes a part of their overall travel experience. That’s why it’s so important to make every process as convenient and frictionless as possible, which guests will appreciate even more during the hectic holiday season.
A chain hotel collecting acknowledgement documentation, a mom-and-pop bed-and-breakfast giving guests the option to check in anytime from anywhere, a restaurant taking reservations or take-out food orders — in all cases, digital forms can make things simpler and easier for both the business and the customer.
Digital forms can also automate processes to improve hospitality business revenues and guest experiences. For example, if a guest registers for a holiday baking class online using a digital form, they can opt in to receive a reminder message via text or email. This ensures that the guest doesn’t miss the class and the restaurant doesn’t lose out on the revenue.
Digital Forms Generate Valuable Data
In addition to streamlining guest interactions, digital forms allow hospitality businesses get to know their guests and personalize services more efficiently. This provides these organizations with a huge edge over the competition now that the pandemic has changed consumer behavior.
Digital surveys are simple to create and deploy, and they can provide information that helps businesses evolve to meet changing expectations — and find out what’s top-of-mind for holiday travel. For example, even without technical skills, it’s simple to build a branded survey that asks guests about their upcoming travel plans, which can give businesses insight into what informs their travel decisions.
When reaching out to guests who have interacted with the business before, it’s a good idea to streamline the process further by using prefilled forms. People are more likely to complete surveys, sign up for membership renewals, or convert from a lead to a buyer when their data is pre-populated. With the right online forms platform, it’s possible to prefill data via integrations with popular CRM systems like HubSpot or Salesforce to significantly improve completion rates.
The use of digital forms was on the rise before the pandemic, and it’s easy to see why. Digital forms reduce the time, hassle and money associated with traditional paperwork, and they can yield incredibly valuable data. In 2020, the use of digital forms skyrocketed, including in the hospitality sector, and new habits are becoming ingrained as more people discover the convenience of online forms.
As travelers go home for the holidays in greater numbers this year, hospitality businesses will need to be ready to serve them. Digital forms — and the data they generate — can help. Now is the time to set up digital forms to remove friction, generate valuable information and streamline processes for travelers, giving the guest and the business more reason for holiday cheer.