By Yoav Tourel, Managing Director, APAC, Guesty
With gradual vaccine distribution taking place around the world, China announcing their International Travel Health Certificate, and several countries in APAC establishing travel bubbles between themselves, there is light at the end of the tunnel in what can only be described as an unprecedented year for travel.
Our own research has shown that consumers are so confident they will be able to travel soon, and that the US this year is seeing 110% higher summer booking volume compared to summer 2020 and 6% higher booking volume compared to summer 2019 (pre-COVID).
The UK is no different. In total, UK 2021 short-term rental summer reservation volume is 36% higher than UK 2020 summer reservation volume. This is directly correlated to Britain’s recent roadmap announcement as pre-announcement, summer reservation volume was 35% lower than what we saw in 2020. In just one week, booking volume jumped over 60%.
But who can be surprised?
Short-term rentals have gone mainstream thanks to Airbnb’s recent IPO and the simple fact that private rentals are the optimal choice for today’s average traveler over traditional, crowded hotel stays as guests can avoid common areas and there are, by nature, less high-touch surfaces. In addition, the benefits short-term rentals demonstrated during COVID-19 (with longer-stay amenities like full kitchens and work stations) have brought them to the forefront of the hospitality space, and everyone – including airlines – wants in. This increased user base of short-term rental coverts is further disrupting the space, demonstrating just how suited alternative accommodations are for a post-pandemic world.
With new expectations and consumer behavior trends in travel, here are six things all members of the industry must prepare for when welcoming guests in 2021.
1. Guests will treat the accommodation as the destination.
Where you stay has become a significant aspect of travelers’ vacation experiences. Guests have to know that just in case a lockdown order is put in place, they will be more than comfortable and occupied wherever they are staying. In addition, many might prefer to stay put in their rentals. For this reason, many have opted for more spacious, private accommodations rather than hotels as many come with pools, backyards, and longer stay amenities (such as full kitchens and bigger closets). Professional hosts have also updated their units by providing Netflix and Apple TV free of charge, for example.
2. Travellers will seek flexible cancellation terms to feel safer when booking.
Travelers need to know that if circumstances outside of their control impact their travel plans, they will not be financially impacted. This is why when booking accommodations – whether at an Airbnb or a traditional hotel – they are going to largely expect flexible cancellation policies in which they can nix their reservation at the very last moment given varying lockdowns and city restrictions.
3. Hosts and hotels will offer reduced rates on no-cancellation bookings.
Most hospitality providers will in parallel offer reduced rates for no-cancellation bookings. This will become increasingly popular as travel normalizes.
4. To avoid constantly changing plans, more and more travellers will book last-minute.
It is a clear simple fact now: Consumers will increasingly book last-minute trips to avoid having to cancel plans.
5. Guests will look for – and expect – light touch stays.
Regardless of where they stay, hotel or private rental, travelers will make sure to check if their accommodations are contact-free or light-touch, meaning they have implemented technology to limit human interaction between staff and guests. If not marketed as such, many will reach out to ask. Such solutions are keyless entry systems, tools to monitor cleaning staff remotely, and automated messaging tools to communicate things like check-in/out instructions.
6. More guests will book through travel agents.
Because of the pandemic’s unpredictable impact on travel plans, people will increasingly turn to professional travel agencies or agents when arranging their trips. Agents keep their fingers on the pulse of travel and have the latest information, and they can easily facilitate refunds and cancellations.
Adapt and Pivot
While recovery is coming, the “when and how” is still dotted with some question marks. In the meantime, property management companies need to stay agile and adapt their business models to meet fluctuating travel patterns and guest expectations, whether it is last-minute or longer stays to more frequent communication. Those who are able to pivot to and adapt will undoubtedly come out on top.