The future's looking bright. Recently Pfizer and Moderna reported, respectively, 90% and 94% effectiveness of the COVID-19 vaccines they are developing, causing travel tech stocks to boom. But with the vaccine unlikely to arrive before the end of the year, property management companies and travelers alike must navigate the holiday season as they’ve been doing since March ─ safely, and exercising caution.
Based on our data here at Guesty, individuals will indeed be booking trips this holiday season, fatigued from COVID-19 impacting their ability to travel and freely move around. And with second and third waves happening across many regions, the frustration and desire to revenge travel ─ travel farther and longer ASAP ─ is only becoming stronger.
As we head into the holiday season keeping the aforementioned in mind, it's crucial to understand the booking patterns and prominent travel personas to look out for and cater to in order to ensure a successful season.
Overall, our data from reservations across all major OTAs shows that reservation volume is increasing across the board as we get closer to each holiday and that people will travel this holiday season for longer periods of time, and slightly shell out more on stays.
At the end of summer, we identified that the reservation volume in the U.S. for Thanksgiving was low compared to last year. Knowing that travelers book last minute in COVID-19 times, we were not too concerned. And indeed, since entering fall, that’s changed: we now see a 12% increase in reservations for the holiday compared to this same time last year. This number will only increase, considering travelers are increasingly making reservations closer to their booking dates.
In fact, 14% of bookings today are made on the same day of the booking itself, and 32% are made within 1-7 days of the booking. 30% of bookings are made 8-30 days in advance of the reservation.
Christmas & New Year’s Eve
Christmas is a different story. In the U.S., reservation volume is 15% lower today compared to this time last year. That’s a slight boost compared to what we saw at the end of summer. Globally, Christmas reservation volume is still significantly lower now than it was at this time last year ─ specifically, 38% lower.
For New Year’s Eve, we are also seeing reduced bookings as of now. In the U.S., the holiday’s reservation volume is 20% lower today compared to this time last year and globally, it’s a whopping 40% lower.
Don’t let these numbers get you down; as I mentioned, last-minute bookings are on the rise and we can anticipate a surge in reservations as we get closer to the both of these holidays.
Though reservation volume varies for the three holidays I’ve discussed, there are some similarities: each boasts slightly higher pricing and longer stays being booked.
Most notable is that worldwide for Christmas, the average nightly rate has increased by 20% and the average nightly stay has increased by 15%, going from 4.9 to 5.7 nights. Globally over New Year’s Eve, travelers will be paying 7% more on average for stays that are 41.5% longer than what we saw at this time last year, surging from 5.3 days to 7.5 days per trip.
I’m not surprised that folks are booking longer stays ─ this is a pattern that has emerged from COVID-19 as work-from-home has morphed into work-from-any-home, enabling digital nomads and parents with kids to work remotely as long as there’s a strong Wi-Fi connection. It’s most likely that travelers are booking longer stays to change up the scenery and use up saved vacation days that aren’t going to roll over into 2021.
Cater to Consumer Expectations
When welcoming these holiday travelers this year ─ whether it be last-minute or for longer periods of time ─ it’s essential that you understand these personas’ new expectations. Though
guests have different motivations and goals for their travel plans, they do share commonalities: the desire to limit vulnerability to the virus while making the most of their stays.
Today’s average traveler expects flexible cancellation policies so they can make changes due to scenarios outside of their control, even a day or two before the booking itself. They expect the implementation of self-check-in or keyless entry systems to limit human interaction associated with physical key drops. And most importantly, those booking travel crave understanding the stringent cleanliness procedures you’ve implemented to keep them and their families safe this season ─ market these prominently.
Short-term Rental Converts
What’s clear is that opting for rentals over traditional hotels is a strong trend among travelers that will continue through this holiday season and beyond. Homes with full kitchens and outdoor spaces will be a top choice, as the make for great settings to host a festive meal where those who are higher risk can enjoy while socially distanced.
And with safety being the main concern for travelers this holiday season, many will opt to book separate accommodations in their destinations rather than staying with family, given that everyone encompasses different anxiety and comfort levels surrounding the pandemic. While some travelers are extremely cautious and follow CDC guidelines strictly, others follow them loosely.
Keeping this data and advice in mind, you’re well on your way to having a jolly holiday season with guests looking to book with you again for this time next year.
Vered Schwarz, President & COO, Guesty
Vered Schwarz is President & COO of property management platform Guesty, where she brings nearly 20 years of experience in global operations to overseeing teams including Customer Experience, Finance, Legal, HR, Customer Success and Data & Analytics.
Prior to Guesty, Vered was COO of Fiverr, where she grew the company from 40 employees to over 400 in her six-year tenure. Before Fiverr, Vered held senior executive positions in private and public global tech companies, including Kenshoo, MediaMind (now Sizmek) and Radware.
Vered has been featured in prominent media outlets including Forbes, Financial Times, Entrepreneur and US News & World Report. In her free time, she serves on the advisory boards of several startups and participates in mentorship programs focused on female entrepreneurship.