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Hotel bookings globally have entered the stage of flux

By Mike Ford, Founder and Managing Director at SiteMinder


A new report by SiteMinder this month looks at the five stages that lay ahead of the world’s almost one million accommodation providers until their booking cycle resets into a different normal. The report was six months in the making, because, for the first time in recent history, the travel industry is learning how to start anew.

Indeed, our study of the latest behaviours and preferences of travellers concludes that the Five Stages of the Hotel Booking Reset are domestic acceleration, plateauing, flux, embracing, and international acceleration. And, on 27 September, the World Hotel Index tells us that hotel bookings globally entered the third stage of flux.

The move into the third stage followed two solid months of domestic acceleration around the world and then 12.5 weeks of plateauing between 50-55 percent of 2019 levels. As I write this, hotel bookings globally now sit at 48.11 percent year-on-year and, as markets around the world experience second waves of coronavirus, it’s difficult to know how long this stage will endure. We hope, not long.

It’s a timely reminder of how quickly our world is changing and why we all need to reset the way we think about travel. In recent months, we’ve seen:

  • Europe’s coronavirus cases surge. Across the continent, Sweden and Norway form the only two countries where the hotel booking momentum is in a better position this month than it was last month.
  • Bookings in Mexico increase more than 55% to now sit at 81.68% of last year’s levels. Hotel bookings are now the third highest in the world by YoY comparisons, in spite of ongoing coronavirus cases in the country and Hurricane Delta making landfall near Cancun last week.
  • Bookings in the United States remain consistent, despite the continued unrest and a small presidential election less than three weeks away. While the booking momentum for New York remains well below the global average, it’s stable nation-wide, having plateaued around the high 50s for more than four months now.
  • Mixed results in Asia. Malaysia’s hotel booking momentum has dipped below the global average for the first time since mid-June, with spiking coronavirus cases resulting in new measures around local movement. However, we’re again seeing very strong momentum in Taiwan after it was announced earlier this month that the Republic of China is preparing to start gradually re-opening to foreign visitors. In the Philippines, too, we are pleasingly seeing a slow increase in hotel booking momentum, as major tourist destinations begin to slowly reopen.
  • The UAE become our fastest riser in the past two weeks, with momentum rising from 54% YoY on 28 September to 88% YoY on 13 October. This comes after the UAE announced they will start issuing tourist visas for all seven emirates, after a near seven-month suspension. The hotel booking momentum in the UAE is now the second-highest globally, behind Taiwan.

As we prepare for more dramatic fluctuations across the globe, we should look to markets that are already in the next stage of ‘embracing’. During this stage, we see travellers embracing domestic tourism as the new exciting adventure. They may book a trip overseas in anticipation of international borders reopening, but ultimately they know that they can and will cancel, if needed.

This stage is no more evident than in the Pacific, where hotel bookings in Australia and New Zealand now sit comfortably above the global average as the weather warms and coronavirus remains contained. The travel bubble between the two countries will commence this week, with New Zealanders able to travel to two Australian states from Friday. It’s a travel bubble that the entire world will surely be watching. We hope it’s a successful blueprint for more destinations to follow, and acts as a precursor to international acceleration potentially lurking around the corner.

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