It’s no secret that COVID-19 has had a tremendous effect on the business travel industry. Since March 2020, experts estimate this $1.5 trillion industry has lost around $518 billion; devastating numbers for transportation, hospitality and more. According to Dave Hilfman, executive director of Global Business Travel Association – a trade group with around 9,000 members – said, “There is no doubt that COVID-19 has a devastating impact on global business travel, with business travel almost grounding to a halt overnight.” According to research done by travel and logistics expert McKinsey & Company, we won’t see pre-COVID business travel numbers come back until at least 2023,…maybe even longer. That’s a long time for the industry to try and stay afloat so hotels are going to have to focus on leisure travelers for the time being.
Luckily, TripAdvisor projects that globally, domestic travel for the fall season (September 1 – November 30, 2020) will continue to slowly recover, with nearly 65% of all travelers planning domestic fall getaways. They also report that domestic travelers are much more interested in beach destinations over central city getaways, although Arizona is seeing a significant year-over-year increase in travelers planning to visit this fall.
Give Leisure Travelers Generous Cancellation Terms
When booking leisure travel, the majority of consumers are thinking “What if COVID-19 issues prevent me from actually going on this trip next month?” This worry can be a huge factor in whether or not they click the “Purchase” button. One thing savvy hotel owners can do to alleviate this fear is provide clear and generous cancellation terms on all bookings.
Take, for example, Marriott’s flexible cancellation policy. They offer the ability to cancel or change a hotel reservation up to 24 hours before the arrival date on reservations made July 6th through September 30th. You can find a list of hotel cancellation policies here. Similarly, properties like The Four Seasons state that “For guests making new individual reservations for any future arrival date, including pre-paid reservations with pre-paid deposits, between today and September 30, 2020, changes or cancellations are permitted at no charge up to 24 hours before your scheduled arrival date.” Think about how you can set the consumers mind at ease by offering the peace of mind that comes with a generous cancellation policy.
Let Leisure Travelers Know Your Property is Safe and Clean
As we discussed in a July article, hotels need to make their COVID-19 safety protocols the center of their marketing efforts. According to the June 2020 Tripadvisor survey, 86% of consumers said safety and cleanliness would be very important when selecting an accommodation during COVID-19. In TripAdvisor’s most recent projections however, that number dropped to 68%. It’s still very important to travelers, but it’s showing a steady decline. Top considerations of those surveyed included the availability of hand sanitizing stations, sealed amenities, frequently disinfected guest rooms and the use of temperature checks for employees and guests.
Offer More Perks to Leisure Travelers to Win Their Business
Another way to attract more leisure travelers during this time is to offer additional perks and incentives. Hoteliers could consider offering a free night with the purchase of two nights, a dining voucher or a complimentary in-room massage. Since the majority of travelers will be for leisure you could offer free kid’s meals with a two-night stay since families will travel together this fall Or try other creative offers such as complimentary tickets to a nearby attraction, free Lyft or Uber rides to and from the airport, or a free pizza delivery. Maybe you could create a “Guest Gift Pack” that includes hand sanitizer, masks and more. All you need to do is think outside the box and you’ll find that the possibilities are endless. Just put yourself in the shoes of a leisure traveler with kids and consider what they would want most.
Until business travel bounces back to its pre-COVID numbers, which may not be until 2023 or beyond, focusing on leisure travelers makes the best marketing sense for hotel owners.