Reflecting on the last year and a half, it’s obvious the impact of the pandemic runs incredibly deep. While it’s not over yet and the road to recovery is paved with uncertainty, the successful roll out of vaccines in some parts of the world means that we’re finally seeing pent-up demand turn into bookings.
Looking at our customers’ current perception and how paramount travel is to them, I’m incredibly optimistic about the future of our industry. From our recent research, one statistic really jumped out to me: 71% of global travellers would prefer to travel this year than find true love. That’s huge! This rises to 84% for Spanish tourists and 77% for travellers from Hong Kong and France.
When you couple that with our search data, it confirms there is hope for the summer ahead. Indicating a strong intent to travel, more than one-third of searches on our platform are for the upcoming summer months – back in line with the proportion of searches seen at this same point in 2019.
A summer season like no other
While we’re observing an uptick in demand, we cannot ignore that this summer season will deviate from previous years, with differences in booking windows, trip types and traveller behaviours highlighting a stark distinction. Let’s take destinations as an example. While dependent on global restrictions and vaccine roll outs, my expectation is that domestic travel will remain prevalent, with perhaps some interregional but less long haul than a typical summer. Our data backs this, with earlier research revealing 72% of global travellers are looking forward to exploring their home country this year.
We’re noticing a shift in length of stay, too. In the past, peak season was associated with fast-paced guest turnarounds. Since the start of the pandemic, however, we’re seeing an increased interest in long stays. This extends to summer, with our data revealing a higher proportion of summer bookings for stays of seven days or more compared to 2019. This creates a real opportunity for partners to secure occupancy for a longer period while defraying operational costs associated with constant room or unit turnover.
Appealing to new traveller behaviours
The key to making the most of this summer is understanding newfound traveller behaviours and preferences. From there, adopting solutions that cater directly to these trends can help you tap into renewed demand while setting you apart from the competition. For example, we know flexibility is now a necessity. So much so that over 90% of summer bookings this year have been made on flexible rates. If you’re not offering flexibility to bookers, you’re missing out on almost all summer bookings on our platform.
Given travel’s current volatility, it’s unsurprising that flexibility continues to reign supreme in the customer’s decision making process. Of course, you still want to secure revenue while meeting this desire for flexibility. Offering one date change to guests who book a non-refundable rate can help you to strike that balance.
This consumer penchant for flexibility is notable since we’re seeing a longer booking window in regions like Western Europe as compared to 2019. In saying that, booking windows continue to vary across the globe, and we’re simultaneously observing a high share of short booking windows in other regions. When we consider this variation in the market, it places great importance on diversifying your availability so you’re visible to both early and last-minute bookers.
In a similar vein, ensuring you can reach these travellers is vital. Over two-thirds of bookings are now happening on mobile. This outsized trend has accelerated throughout the pandemic, with more customer activity taking place on mobile devices than ever before. In parallel, we see partners who adopt mobile rates capture 28% more of these bookings.
Collectively, these changes in booking behaviour represent a significant shift in the market and draw attention to the importance of adapting your strategy to suit the needs of the post-pandemic traveller. As we move into the summer months, I anticipate these trends will continue to gain momentum – make sure you’re capitalising on them.
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