Is your reservations team ready for the spike in calls?
After a rollercoaster ride that saw spikes in cancellation calls and then times with reduced or no call volume, travel is back in full swing and consequently so are call volumes. When we say up, we mean it. Revinate’s contact center service, RezForce, has recorded over $272 million in bookings for our clients since the beginning of 2021 when the travel restarted.
Quantity and quality are teaming up
Since the onset of COVID – 19, call volume has been up. In many cases, way up. Under normal circumstances that would be a great thing. But as we all remember, those spikes in call volume represented throngs of people asking how to cancel a trip versus book one. But now the data indicates the tables are turning.
The shift to direct booking has been significant. According to a poll by GlobalData, 38% of travelers plan to book directly. The shift came when consumers began to lose their confidence in OTAs at the beginning of the lockdowns. OTAs were unable to field the number of questions, calls, and the volume of requests for refunds, resulting in a negative customer experience. Travelers found booking directly gave them more flexibility and peace of mind than booking through a third party.
Flying is back?
As confidence in air travel continues to grow, so do airline bookings. According to Adobe Analytics, the pick-up began right after the holidays and the decrease in cases of omicron. Even with increasing prices, flight bookings have returned to pre-pandemic days and beyond. TSA is reporting over 2 million passengers passing through checkpoints daily with that number continuing to increase.
Airline travel is also seeing a jump in cancellations due to staffing shortages, leaving travelers stranded or hustling to make changes to their reservations. To combat this, airlines are beginning to cut back their number of flights. JetBlue has reported that they’ll be reducing flights by 10 percent in the upcoming summer. This is after a previous reduction of 8 – 10%. As airlines scramble to find capable staffing while prices increase, many travelers, specifically families, will return to drivable and local staycations.
What about the booking window?
In the early days of COVID, travelers were extending their booking windows in hopes of a quick recovery, while enjoying their vacation in a post-pandemic world. But our travel has changed, and so have our booking habits. Even though we’re seeing high demand, most travelers are still reeling from the unpredictability of travel restrictions. We saw France close its borders to the UK just as recently as January.
Travelers are now making their reservations much closer to their stay date, most booking within a 14-day window. And they’re looking for properties that have more flexible booking policies. This leads to shorter lead times and last-minute cancellations. Let’s pair this with “trip stacking,” (booking multiple trips at the same time as backup), and now you have a demand prediction nightmare on your hands.
There is good news. Properties are seeing Length of Stay increase as the shift to remote work has given travelers the flexibility to take a “flexcation”, mixing work and travel.
So, are you ready for the summer?
As we head towards summer, bookings will continue to surge. And with shorter booking windows, there will be an abundance of inventory available. Revinate’s RezForce booking data is a strong sign that travel is continuing to grow. After two years of cutbacks, layoffs, furloughs, and staffing shortages, now is the time to fortify for the travel onslaught to come.