Expedia Group has released tips and insights to help lodging providers in the U.S. prepare for the return of travel. Following a sustained period of uncertainty for the travel and hospitality industry, market trends and recent insights from Expedia Group Media Solutions continue to indicate that travelers are anxious to get away—and the majority of those dreaming, planning or booking travel are doing so for the near future.
Expedia Group data shows that as of March 1, the 0–21-day window accounted for more than 50% of global searches, followed by the 31-60-day window at 15%. While it’s unclear when international travel restrictions will ease, travelers are looking to stay closer to home in the short-term. In the U.S., 78% of searches were domestic, compared to 22% international, a trend that has been consistent in recent weeks.
The company offers these five tips to help lodging providers prepare for the return of travel and attract potential guests as they gear up for their next trip:
To help instill traveler confidence and financial peace of mind, lodging providers should clearly communicate flexibility across all channels—from websites and advertising to traveler communications and on-property. This may include offering full refunds and cancellations, or flexible reservation and date-change policies.
Custom research from Media Solutions found that 53% of travelers will feel more comfortable traveling if they have full cancellation and refunds on their accommodations—especially Gen Z and millennial travelers. Expedia.com’s lodging data shows that travelers booked refundable rates 10% more often in 2020 than the year before.
Insights from the Media Solutions study show that lodging providers should spotlight cleaning and disinfecting protocols to reassure travelers who are looking to return to trusted accommodations post-pandemic. Highlighting information on sanitizing and disinfecting measures throughout the property and in-room can help reassure travelers who are considering a trip soon or post-pandemic, as hygiene concerns are likely to have a long-term impact.
One in two travelers have avoided using chain hotels, boutique hotels and resorts during the pandemic because of cleanliness concerns. Pandemic measures will play a role in future accommodation decisions for nearly eight in 10 travelers—regardless of age.
Eighty-three percent of all travelers and 90% of the silent generation said it is important for accommodations to provide regular deep-cleaning and disinfecting, and 76% of all travelers would like to see a checklist outlining what has been disinfected.
For chain hotels and resorts, messaging around reduced-capacity and social-distancing measures can help reassure the more than one-third of travelers who have avoided these accommodation types during the pandemic because they feel too many people are staying there. Implementing and communicating health and safety measures are a must for lodging providers, and this information should be easily accessible for guests, wherever they are searching for information or inspiration.
Online reviews have long played a role in informing traveler decisions, but they will be even more important for future travel planning. According to a 2020 Expedia Group study, nearly three-quarters of travelers read reviews before booking a property and consider reviews about “room cleanliness” and “overall condition of the hotel” as the most influential.
Eighty percent of travelers believe if hotels do not respond to negative property reviews, then the review must be truthful. Looking ahead, travelers will turn to recent online reviews 41% more than pre-pandemic, while online reviews from any time will see a 15% lift. Lodging providers should encourage guests to leave reviews and respond to guest reviews, good and bad, ideally within 24 hours, to show guests that their opinions and suggestions for improvement matter.
Travelers will increasingly turn to hotel websites, online travel agencies and travel advertising for trip planning post-pandemic, and pictures and information on these channels will be more relevant and influential in the future. As traveler demand continues to grow, lodging providers should implement a multi-channel marketing strategy to ensure their property is front and center with potential guests—wherever they are dreaming, searching or shopping—and evaluate their marketing toolkit.
Target the Right Traveler
With travel motivations and preferences varying by age, and even geography, lodging providers should develop targeted offers or promotions that appeal to different generations. Although pandemic travel has been driven by a variety of reasons—the leading ones being change of scenery or to see family or friends—advantageous travel is especially popular with younger generations and may inspire future trips. Additionally, younger generations are expected to be at the forefront of driving accommodation demand back to pre-pandemic levels, so lodging providers should consider their role in short-term marketing strategies and look at targeting other generations with longer-lead messaging or offers. Twenty percent of millennials who traveled during the pandemic did so to take advantage of deals and savings, while 15% of Gen Z traveled during the pandemic to work or study from a new location.
To reach younger generations, lodging providers should highlight special deals or discounts, or promotions tied to remote work/study programs, while family-friendly packages may appeal to the silent generation. Gen X and baby boomers may be more inspired by scenic accommodations, so visually stunning landscapes or outdoor environments should be front and center in campaigns targeting these travelers.