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Hotel bookings globally hit their highest point since the start of the pandemic

By Mike Ford, Founder and Managing Director at SiteMinder


While uncertainty continues to dominate headlines, there is a new constant that remains chronically underreported. Booked travel. In fact, it’s now been four consecutive months that hotel bookings globally have remained over 60% of 2019 levels. As I write this, they’re sitting at 68% – their highest point since the pandemic began. Let’s examine why.

Europeans are redefining ‘summer’

In Europe, pent-up demand has redefined summer from the warmest months of the year to a state of travel freedom. Fifteen of the 17 European countries on the World Hotel Index are currently outpacing the global average for hotel bookings, with only Austria and Finland narrowly below it. Meanwhile, hotels in Iceland and Spain are receiving more hotel bookings now than this time two years ago.

The performance of Spain, which withstood another surge of Covid cases in late July, is of particular note. It could very well represent the world’s first case study of how travel can successfully coexist alongside looming threats.

The MEA region is also bouncing back. This past month, Namibia joined the handful of countries on the World Hotel Index to exceed its 2019 hotel booking levels, after a strong dip in local Covid cases. The UAE, Morocco and South Africa are seeing an uptick of booking activity for the same reason.

Fastest risers are in Asia

In Asia, hotel booking volumes remain low overall, but in certain markets are now rising relatively faster than anywhere in the world.

After four months, Indonesia is again above 50% of its 2019 hotel booking levels, as restrictions ease in Bali. Malaysia has experienced a sharp jump in bookings to 38% of 2019 levels, from below 10% at the beginning of the month. And, Thailand, which is eyeing a broadening of travel options to vaccinated tourists from October, has risen from 10% of 2019 levels at the start of August, to 24%.

In the Pacific, Fiji has also seen a small, yet significant rise in bookings. The archipelago, which relies on tourism for roughly 40% of its GDP, is now targeting a November 1 reopening date, which has resulted in an initial rallying of bookings in recent days.

North and Central America are showing stability

Despite the ongoing presence of the Delta strain, North and Central America remain two of the most stable regions on SiteMinder’s World Hotel Index, showcasing their resilience. In the United States, hotel booking momentum has remained between 70% and 90% of 2019 levels since April, while, in Canada, it has stayed above 75% of 2019 levels since July. In Mexico, which currently leads the region, the momentum has remained above 80% of 2019 levels since mid-March.

Travellers are still living days, not months, ahead

We know from our recent Changing Traveller Report research that, globally, people are currently enthused to travel – which means that we’re likely to see bookings sustained for as long as individuals are able to do so. We only need to look at regions like Asia to be reminded how quickly booking patterns can change, as travel restrictions ease.

However, as the World Hotel Index also shows, the way that people are arranging their trips remains extremely last-minute. Of all bookings made in the last two weeks, globally, around two-thirds are for stays in either September or October, highlighting just how little planning is currently taking place.

As both global resilience and confidence grow, we’re likely to see a lengthening of these lead times in the months ahead. We’ll stay close to this, as always.

Until my October update, stay safe and take care.

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