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One year on: where hotel bookings will reset first

By Mike Ford, Founder and Managing Director at SiteMinder


Although at times it can feel longer, this week marks the one-year anniversary of when hotel bookings most steeply decelerated around the world, as countries closed borders and commercial travel was suspended. On the World Hotel Index, one look at the comparison to last year serves as a reminder of just how rapidly hotel booking momentum ground to a halt only 12 months ago.

One year and some 400 million vaccines later, we’re now able to reflect on the year that’s been, and using our five stages of the hotel booking reset—domestic acceleration, plateauing, flux, embracing, and international acceleration—analyse how the world might begin to come out on the other side.

Asia Pacific

In the Asia Pacific, we find the three hotel markets (the Maldives, Australia and Taiwan) that have seen the greatest recovery to date, and where we see the strongest possibility of international acceleration occurring in the second half of the year.

In fact, the Maldives, with booking momentum at over 125% of 2019 levels, has been fully open to international travel since July and is one of few countries that have completed all five stages of the hotel booking reset already.

Here in Australia, despite very few international guests, booking momentum nation-wide has surged to 98% of 2019 levels, although we continue to see differences between regional towns and major capital cities. Hotel booking volumes in Newcastle, for example, now sit at 128% of 2019 levels, while they are at only 60% in Sydney. Nevertheless, planning for a travel bubble with Singapore, New Zealand and potentially Fiji from July or August is underway, with South Korea and Japan likely to follow.

And, in Taiwan, currently at 93% of 2019 levels, further discussions with Palua, Singapore, Japan, South Korea and Vietnam are currently taking place. We can see in the World Hotel Index that this corresponds to a greater share of international bookings emerging from August.

So, if we are to predict where we will see most countries complete the five stages of the hotel booking reset, at this current time it’s looking very likely that the answer to that is the Asia Pacific.

The Americas

In the Americas, too, we are seeing consistently growing hotel booking momentum in many locations. While parts of South America have sadly struggled to control the coronavirus in recent weeks, in the United States, Canada, Costa Rica and Mexico, cases are now easing from their January spike, and an upward trend in booking momentum is the result of increased confidence.

For Costa Rica, approximately three-in-four travellers currently booking their stays are from abroad, which is higher than in April of 2019. Similarly, in Mexico, we can see that the share of international bookings is also outpacing 2019 levels. This trend could continue across the Americas region, but it will be vital that case numbers are contained in the second half of the year.


Looking to EMEA, where there continues to be a high number of national lockdowns and curfews, we are naturally seeing the least evidence of international acceleration currently taking place. However, despite this, hope for increased movement in the second half of 2021 is evident in our data.

In the case of Spain, which has seen booking momentum rise to 42.77% of 2019 levels as local case numbers have fallen, we can see that of the arrivals expected during the second half of the year, the majority will be international holidaymakers. The same can be said for locations like the Netherlands and Norway, which can expect a strong uptick in international guests later this year.

With global booking momentum edging above 50% of 2019 levels for the first time in 2021, it remains a time of planning and steady growth for our industry. The data should give us all assurance that a brighter year is ahead, and, as always, as situations evolve throughout 2021, you’ll see it first from the World Hotel Index. Be sure to subscribe for free.

Until next month, take care.

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