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Travel planning is making a comeback in 2021

By Mike Ford, Founder and Managing Director at SiteMinder


When we left off in December, the World Hotel Index showed us that hotel booking volumes globally were at just over 50% of the prior year’s levels.

Today, as we continue to endure the ‘flux’ stage of the hotel booking reset, the World Hotel Index shows us that the global booking volume is sitting at 37.2% of what it was last year, influenced largely by Europe where the pandemic is running rampant. As cases in point, we see the hotel booking momentum in the UK, France, Germany and Spain all sitting below 25% as a stark contrast to what it was during the summer only a few months ago.

While the booking momentum in the United States has managed to remain over 50%, a closer look at some of the major cities tells different stories. Indeed, the devastation caused by surging coronavirus cases is evident in New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. On the other hand, some of the more leisure-based destinations such as Tampa and Miami are still performing strongly. So, we continue to see polar opposite performances even within the same country destination.

Even in the midst of this seemingly dire global booking performance, however, we should find hope in the global performance being the highest it’s been since 9 January and the momentum, for now, remaining steady. We also see causes for optimism in the latest insights to emerge over the past several weeks:

1. Months-long hotel booking lead times are back in Europe

Hotel booking lead times in Europe now come in two extremes.

Last June, we were first to report that, due to how rapidly market conditions were changing, travellers had become minimalists when it came to planning. And, that trend of last-minute bookings has dominated the World Hotel Index charts since, even today. We see in Chile, for example, more than three out of every four bookings made in the last two weeks are for stays during the final days of January and in February.

However, the trend of booking at the last-minute is now only one of two extremes in lead times that we see in Europe. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, thanks to optimism and pent-up demand, travel planners have begun booking their stays in Europe many months in advance. We see this in markets such as Ireland, where, at the end of November, stays beyond three months constituted only 19% of all bookings made during the two weeks prior. Today, stays beyond three months constitute 81% of all bookings made with an Irish hotel in the last two weeks. Similarly, stays beyond three months constitute 74% of all bookings made with a UK hotel in the last two weeks, and they constitute 61% in Denmark. As at the end of November, those figures were only 28% and 20%, respectively. We see the same trend in Austria, Germany and Portugal.

2. Chinese New Year will still bring bookings, even without international Chinese travellers

Chinese New Year is slated for February 12 this year and will not only welcome the Year of the Ox, but provide a wave of domestic trips right across Asia, from Cambodia to Hong Kong. We can also see that week as a clear spike in Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan and in Vietnam, where nearly 40% of all arrivals in the coming year are expected. It is clear that Chinese New Year will still be a big event for Asia’s hotels, even without the millions of international Chinese travellers that the region has welcomed in years past.

On that note, I wish you all a belated happy and safe New Year. While we don’t know what the coming months have in store for us, we can be sure through the World Hotel Index that there is much hope for the travel industry and perhaps, as we are seeing with forward bookings, we can expect the return of more trends soon.

Until next month, take care.

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