Covid-19 has changed many aspects of our lives, from the way we shop to the way we work. It has changed social norms and the way we interact with others. But, perhaps the biggest effects will be felt by travelers who venture out of their homes for a change of scenery after shelter-in-place measures are lifted.
Despite health concerns and warnings from the WHO and CDC, many people are willing to risk Covid-19 to start living their lives again, whether or not a vaccine is ready. Shelter-in-place restrictions have made us feel like caged animals and we want OUT.
How do we know? We surveyed 10,477 travelers in 10 countries to uncover their expectations of their future travel plans.
The results of our largest ever traveler study find that globally, 72.7 percent of recent travelers still plan to travel within the next year.
Like everything else, travel will need to adapt given the realities of the pandemic and the need to exercise caution. People will be asked to social distance. Bars and restaurants won’t be allowed to operate at full capacity. Cleaning will be more stringent and perhaps more public to ensure guests see counters being wiped down and areas being sanitized.
Here are three examples, based on the results of our recent survey of how Covid-19 will change the way we book travel.
The majority of travelers will only consider domestic travel
Far-away lands are off the table for most of us. According to our survey, 70.1 percent of travelers expect to first travel domestic. Breaking that number down a bit more, 49.1 percent of travelers expect to travel first within their country and 21 percent of travelers expect to travel within their home state or province.
It’s not hard to understand why. For many countries, borders are still closed and reopening dates are hazy. It’s hard to plan with so many unknowns. New policies are being discussed now that make it clear that international travel will introduce new hassles, such as obtaining a health certificate, having your temperature checked in the airport, at immigration and more.
Knowing that international travelers won’t be returning for a year or so, hotel marketers should ensure that they’re segmenting their database and focusing on domestic travelers. To ensure that your message is personalized, think about hyper segmenting your audience by guests within a 4 hour drive and those that might travel by train or plane. The more targeted the message the better luck you will have at securing a booking. For campaign ideas, see this article.
Familiarity will be key
A very positive sign for hoteliers is that almost 70 percent of travelers will feel most comfortable staying at a hotel they know. If they have stayed with you before and you are leveraging your guest database to reach out to them regularly, it likely means that you can get them to book directly with a compelling offer to welcome them back.
Since there’s nothing more profitable than a direct booking, take the time to plan some great email promotions for your past guests. Our Guide to Hotel Loyalty has some great campaign ideas.
Covid-19 will affect accommodation choice for 40.2 percent of travelers
While we have already discussed that the majority of people will feel safe enough to travel this year, Covid-19 is still top of mind. 9.3 percent of travelers will wait on the overall status of the pandemic, while 31 percent will put weight on what hotels are doing with regard to safety, social distancing, and cleaning.
To use this insight to your advantage, focus on cleanliness, pre, during and post-stay since travel experts agree that cleanliness is going to be a big focus for guests.
Pre-stay, ensure that your website and your public listings include your commitment to health and safety. Share your enhanced cleaning policy and procedures.
When they’re on site, provide hand sanitizer throughout the property. Ask guests whether you can be doing more to ensure their safety in your in-stay survey. Use feedback to improve your protocols and continue improving.
When guests review your hotel post-stay and mention how safe they felt, amplify the review and respond with details about your policy. The more your guests know that you take sanitation seriously, the more bookings you will get.
Looking for more insights from our survey to help plan your marketing strategies and attract guest bookings? See our global survey results from our largest traveler survey ever.