Although the fallout from COVID-19 has hit domestic travel hard, with the US Travel Association estimating $402 billion in cumulative losses since March, there is a silver lining in an increase in consumers wanting to travel locally. RateGain has found a 4x increase in staycations, in which consumers travel by car to a hotel located an average of two to four hours away, and expect this trend to continue into 2021. Hotels have a tremendous opportunity to capitalize on this trend for the 2020 holiday season and into 2021, and it will take some social media savvy as well as a laser focus on the local market to see results.
The Rise in Staycations
From our work with the major hotels in the U.S., RateGain has seen a significant increase in staycation bookings – 4x the rate from September 2019 to September 2020 – and expect those numbers to rise as COVID continues to restrict travel. Consumers are interested in staycations as they offer a break in routine without the risks associated with long-distance travel. Factor in the trends of more people working from home and a large number of children in distance-learning, and you have a very enticing environment for people to take local trips. In addition, consumers are tending toward different hotel habits when booking staycations, with price no longer one of the main considerations. Consumers are typically booking closer to their departure date, valuing their desired dates of stay over price considerations or special deals. In addition, the staycation’s length of stay is typically longer than typical hotel stays, given the flexibility provided by work from home and distance learning.
How to Attract the Staycationer
Hotels should first go local for guests. Logical targets are past guests local to the hotel, first moving through direct contact, such as email. From there, they can expand to targeting local guests who might be interested in a staycation, outlining different interests or incentives. Highlighting kid-friendly attractions near the hotel for families, for example, or showcasing outdoor activities for the active traveler are good ways to start. Hotels can also reference changes in traditional holiday plans, in which many families are having smaller, local gatherings. Offering to be the new holiday location or the respite after the holidays is a good way to attract local guests. Finally, hotels should plan for staycationers to stay longer but also conduct work or learning functions during their stay. Make sure to highlight all network capabilities as well as any alternative work locations (such as spacious lobbies) that are available.
The Social Media Differentiator
RateGain noticed something interesting this past summer: as the chatter concerning COVID lessened, booking activity for local hotel stays started to increase. Hotels should look to Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook to publicize local deals. The strategy should include content creation to entice locals to relax during the “new normal,” and provide examples of how the hotel can enhance their experience, such as “hiking breaks between Zoom calls.” Hotels should look to video to capture the detail of the hotel as well as local attractions, providing sample day itineraries, for example.
Bundling the Deals
RateGain has also noticed an increase in car rentals for local travel, with families wanting either roomier transportation or not wanting to put miles on their personal vehicles. Hotels can work with area car rental agencies to provide special rates for travelers going to the hotel. Similarly, hotels can bundle tickets to local attractions or special rates at COVID-safe restaurants for local guests. Thinking creatively with local businesses can be a win-win for both hotels as well as the consumer.
RateGain believes that staycations could increase after the election, with many people wanting a break from politics or the never-ending intense news cycles. Starting immediately with plans for post-election, Thanksgiving, Christmas / Winter Break / New Year’s campaigns will give hotels a good advantage.
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