As the pandemic gradually creeps out, travel is making a strong comeback. But this comeback brought about monumental changes in guest behavior and booking inspiration. Post pandemic, hoteliers were simply playing catch up to meet the ever-evolving demands of the ‘changed’ customer.
But what ‘changed’? How has the general traveler behavior and booking mentality changed since the world came out of its quarantined walls?
The change is quite significant, and cannot be brushed off without a proper breakdown. The following article sheds light on the changes brought around by the pandemic, and how hoteliers all around the world have had to adopt.
Read on to know more!
How have Hotels evolved in the pandemic?
The constant shift between lockdown and travel restrictions has taught hotels the importance of leveraging data. But how? What difference will data make to the survival of the hospitality industry?
This constant shift taught hoteliers to be on their toes, and leverage available technology to get to know the customer better. On the surface, this technology simply provided hoteliers a faster means to connect with the customer.
However, the data collected by these systems helped hoteliers understand their customers and their booking inspiration. Naturally, they can now match the constantly shifting customer expectations, since they understand the customer better.
In the current technological landscape, everything from transactions to bookings, has to be seamless and preferably follow an omnichannel experience.
In essence, the constant fluctuations caused by the pandemic in these past few years has now taught hotels to understand their surroundings a lot better. This understanding comes from the insights you derive from all the data at your fingertips. The bottom line is that the pandemic highlighted the importance of making conscious, timely, and data-driven decisions.
The difference in guest behavior post-pandemic: Booking inspiration edition
Before we look at the changes brought about by the pandemic, let’s first understand the scale at which events occurred. To do this, let’s consider an example. Back in 2010, the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajokull erupted, and it spread ash all across the continent.
As a result, all the flights above Europe had to be canceled, and tourism took a significant hit. Now ponder about this for a second. If a volcano eruption can slow down business in hotels, what damage can a multi-year full-scale global pandemic do?
The pandemic forced digitalization due to remote work culture, and now customer expectations are technology-driven as well. Hotels must be technologically equipped and arrange for a seamless online experience for higher conversions. In fact, this technology adoption by the hospitality industry reduced guest complaints by a whopping 71%.
As a result, the guests’ booking patterns and inspiration have also seen quite some change. Their perspective towards traveling has changed, and so you have to adapt accordingly. Here are some pointers to help you understand these changes:
The post-pandemic era has seen a higher percentage of guests who have booked a stay for leisure purposes. This shares a direct correlation with the fact that people haven’t traveled in the past few years, and now that the restrictions are a little more relaxed, hotels are seeing an influx of vacationers
In fact, Elizabeth Schultz — Vice President of guest experience, strategy, and innovation at Hyatt Hotels Corporation — states, “A much higher percentage of our guests are leisure guests.”
So, guests will be looking for an experience that can provide them value.
Furthermore, another survey conducted by Hyatt also stated that guests are willing to drive a lot more than they were ready to before the pandemic. Pre-pandemic, guests would drive for a maximum of 2-4 hours to their getaway destination.
Now, guests are ready to drive up to 8 hours continuously to get to their destination.
The uncertainty and constant flux created by the uncertainty of COVID spikes have shortened the booking window considerably. Guests used to book well in advance, but this practice faded away with the onset of pandemic-related trends.
With such a short booking window, hotels have to expect an increase in last-minute bookings and impatient guests.
Guests are now more cautious and tech-savvy.
If nothing, two years of remote work has made almost every person more cautious and tech-savvy. So, your outdated website and clunky UI will no longer work. Furthermore, there is no scope for inaccuracy on your website either. With the general audience being fairly proficient at navigating websites, they will look at every tiny detail on the webpage.
This is because they need to trust the hotel before they can come and stay in it. It is no longer just about amenities or ambiance, but also about sanitation and COVID-prevention measures.
Unless the guest can trust that you are offering them a safe experience, they will not even think about booking.
Furthermore, the new-age customer is also looking for a seamless omnichannel experience. So don’t just update your website, but integrate powerful technological tools (e.g., CRM) to engage your guests in the best way possible.
Value-buying now trumps brand loyalty
The rise of the leisure traveler has brought about the downfall of brand loyalty. The leisure traveler has their eyes set on finding a property that suits their needs.
It rarely happens that these leisure travelers repeat a hotel brand or a destination. As a result, these hoteliers are now directing their efforts toward keeping their travelers informed and updated.
A significant expansion in traveler base
With the rise of leisure travelers, the overall global traveler base has also seen a significant hike. This has especially been noticed in the Asian economy, where high disposable income millennials are taking almost 3-4 trips every year.
Moreover, a higher life expectancy of baby boomers and Gen-Xers, paired with their high net worth and financial security, has widened the traveller base further. They are now capable of spending a lot more on travel. Furthermore, they also spend a lot more time traveling now.
The COVID-19 pandemic brought about tremendous setbacks for the travel and tourism industry. But the silver lining in this situation was data and technology adoption. Now, the functionality of the hospitality industry is much more channel driven, and you have to be proficient at keeping track of all of them.
For instance, you might get an influx of guests from a particular OTA (Online Travel Agency). Or maybe it is your GDS. What then? What GDS is it? What type of business is it bringing in?
You must be on top of all these channels and focus your marketing efforts on them. But remember one thing. Whatever you do to drive guests to your hotel must have an ROI to support it. Be smart about it, back your decisions with data, and offer your guests a satisfying experience.
The article has been written based on the insights gathered from industry leaders.