Expedia Group has released tips and suggestions to help accommodation providers prepare for the travel recovery.
After a prolonged period of uncertainty for the travel and hospitality industry, market trends and recent data from Expedia Group Media Solutions still indicate that travelers are eager to go, and that the majority of those who dream about, plan or book travel are doing so in the near future.
Expedia Group data shows that as of March 1, 2021, the 0-21 day period accounted for over 50% of international searches, followed by the 31-60 day period with 15%. Since it is difficult to predict with certainty the relaxation of restrictions on international travel, it appears that travelers are looking to stay closer to home in the short term. In Canada, 65% of searches were for domestic travel, compared to 35% for international travel, a trend that has continued in recent weeks.
So here are five tips to help accommodation providers prepare for the travel recovery and attract potential customers looking for their next trip:
- Offer flexibility
To instill confidence and financial peace of mind in travelers, accommodation providers should clearly communicate their flexible options across all channels, from websites to advertisements to traveler and on-site communications. This can include offering full refunds and cancellations, as well as flexible booking and date change policies.
-Custom research conducted by Media Solutions found that 53% of travelers will feel more comfortable traveling if they have full cancellation and refund rights for their accommodations, especially Gen Z and Gen Y travelers.
-Expedia.com’s lodging data shows that travelers chose a refundable rate 10% more often in 2020 than the previous year.
-Nearly 70 percent of lodging rate plans on Expedia Group sites are now refundable.
- Reassure travelers
Data from the Media Solutions study reveals that lodging providers should emphasize their cleaning and disinfection protocols to reassure travelers looking to return to trusted accommodations after the pandemic. Highlighting sanitation and disinfection information throughout the facility and in guest rooms can help reassure travelers considering travel soon or after the pandemic, as hygiene is likely to remain a long-term concern.
-One in two travelers avoided chain, boutique and resort hotels during the pandemic because of concerns about cleanliness.
-Pandemic measures will play a role in future lodging choices for nearly eight in ten travelers, regardless of age.
-83% of all travelers and 90% of silent generation respondents mentioned the importance of regular deep cleaning and disinfection of accommodations, and 76% of all travelers would like access to a checklist of disinfected areas.
For chain hotels and resorts, messages about limited capacity and physical distancing measures may reassure more than a third of travelers who avoided these types of accommodations during the pandemic because they feel too many people are staying there. Enforcing and communicating health and safety measures is critical for accommodation providers, and this information should be readily available to travelers, regardless of where they research and get their ideas.
To help lodging partners rebuild guest trust, Expedia Group has launched a feature that allows them to highlight in the amenities list the health measures they take at their facility, including no-touch arrival and departure, provision of hand sanitizer, improved cleaning practices and enforcement of physical distancing measures.
- Consider reviews
Online reviews have long helped inform travelers’ decisions, but they’ll be even more important for future travel planning. According to a 2020 Expedia Group study, nearly three-quarters of travelers read reviews before booking at a property and consider reviews about “room cleanliness” and “overall hotel condition” to be the most influential.
-80% of travelers believe that if hotels don’t respond to negative reviews, it’s because the reviews are probably true.
-In the future, travelers will read recent online reviews 41% more than before the pandemic, and 15% more for all reviews.
Lodging providers should encourage guests to leave a review and respond to guest reviews, both good and bad, ideally within 24 hours, to show them that their opinions and suggestions for improvement are important.
- Stand out
Travelers will increasingly turn to hotel websites, online travel agencies and tourism advertising to plan their post-pandemic trips, and photos and information on these channels will be more relevant and influential in the future. As traveler demand continues to grow, lodging providers should evaluate their marketing toolkit and implement a multi-channel marketing strategy to make their establishment stand out to potential customers, no matter where they dream of going, search or store.
Performance-based marketing products, such as TravelAds sponsored ads, can ensure that an establishment is displayed in search results. In addition, flexible ad copy and customized images allow hotels to present the information that matters most to today’s travelers.
5. Target the right travelers
Because travel motivations and preferences vary by age and even geography, accommodation providers should develop targeted offers or promotions that appeal to different generations. While pandemic travel is motivated by a variety of reasons, primarily for a change of scenery or to see family or friends, value-priced travel is particularly popular with younger generations and may inspire future travel. In addition, younger generations will likely play an important role in bringing lodging demand back to pre-pandemic levels, so lodging providers should factor this into their short-term marketing strategies and consider targeting other generations with longer-term messages or offers.
-20% of Gen Y travelers who traveled during the pandemic did so to take advantage of offers and savings.
-15% of Gen Z travelers who traveled during the pandemic did so to work or study in a new location.
To reach younger generations, accommodation providers should highlight special offers or discounts, or promotions related to study or work away programs, and target the silent generation with family packages. Gen X travelers and baby boomers may be more inspired by scenic accommodations, so beautiful landscapes or outdoor spaces should be front and center in campaigns targeting these travelers.
To learn more about the attitudes, motivations and influences that will drive future global travel decisions, check out the full Traveler Impressions and Influences research.