With our access to real-time traveler audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we’re in a unique position to share the current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds.
NB: This is an article from Sojern
In this blog series, we’ll take a look at the data to aid travel marketers in their assessment of this worldwide event. They can use these trends to inform their marketing strategies during this period, as the industry stabilizes.
These insights are based on data collected through September 6, 2020. We will be reviewing our data on a regular basis to provide a view of trends and patterns in consumer behavior. Sojern’s insights are based on over 350 million traveler profiles and billions of travel intent signals, however it does not capture one hundred percent of the travel market.
After a long summer spent indoors for many, international travel spots are slowly beginning to open up, with varying degrees of requirements for tourists to enter. News sources across the globe share the sentiments that we’re seeing in our data, little by little, travelers are getting back out there again. We took a deep dive into lodging, flight, car rental, and vacation rental data to understand global trends to help inform your marketing strategies.
Global Lodging Trends
Lodging bookings are up across the globe according to Sojern data. In the graph below, indexed to May 31, 2020, we take a look at lodging bookings in four regions. In Asia, Malaysia and Singapore are leading the way for summer recovery, with India recovering in third behind them. In Europe, Turkey and Russia saw strong summer growth, followed by the UK, though the UK saw a two week decline in lodging bookings in August. Latin America shows a much sharper recovery in August, likely pointing to the delayed impact COVID-19 had on the region, which led to later re-opening dates. In the US and Canada, Canada continues to outpace the US in bookings, but we also see a decline in bookings to US remote mountain states. A factor in this could be that any location that has rapidly grown would eventually slow down, and that could be what we’re seeing here.
Global Flight Trends
Labor Day in the US led to air travel hitting a five month high over the weekend. The TSA screened 3.2 million passengers over the four day weekend. Though this number is much lower than in years past, this is the highest number of air travelers the US has seen since the pandemic hit in March. Our data shows that US travelers are flying to more remote destinations that are harder to access by vehicle, whereas they are likely driving to northeastern destinations. We also see a shift from flights booked to northern mountain states (Wyoming, Montana, Idaho) to more southern states (Colorado, Utah).
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Again, we see the strongest flight booking growth in Latin America, with El Salvador and Guatemala (both opening in September) leading the way, followed by Honduras. In the EMEA (Europe, Middle East & Africa) region, flight booking growth is greatest in the Middle East (UAE, Egypt), as well as the UK and Turkey.
In Asia, we see growth in India and a decline in August bookings to the Maldives after strong growth in June/July. In terms of searches, however, our data indicates that hotel searches to the Maldives rose more than 30% within 30 days of reopening and 15% in the second half of August, possibly linked to strong marketing campaigns driving dreamers to browse the luxurious hotels for future travel. This is important to note, as travelers are always dreaming and searching and companies should have their brand in front of them as much as possible to inspire them.
Lodging VS Flight Booking Trends
As to be expected based on the data we’ve shared over the past few months, the hotel vertical is recovering faster than air since the low point in the market on April 5, 2020. A big factor is likely the control a traveler has when driving to their destination and staying in a hotel of their choice versus dealing with the higher risk factor of sharing close quarters with a mass of people, battling possible airport crowds, or potential flight cancellations and border closures. Travelers are also likely interested in staying close to home given the uncertain situation and constantly changing policies.
However, airlines are doing everything they can to sway travelers to board their planes. United Airlines recently announced a new same-day flight change policy, all three major airlines (American, Delta, and United) have dropped their ticket-change fees, and they continue to emphasize mask policies. Several airlines are blocking middle seats for the time being. In the end, this could mean a big shift in operations for airlines moving forward, ideally to more flexible policies for travelers even after the pandemic subsides.
As a hotel marketer, this is a great opportunity to advertise to travelers who may not only drive, but also fly to your destination from domestic locations. As we see in the data, while recovery is not happening as quickly for air travel, flights are still being booked and those travelers are looking for somewhere to stay. United Airlines, for example, is adding and restoring routes to their schedule in October.
A Look at Car and Vacation Rentals
A common theme in the travel space when the pandemic hit was the idea that car and vacation rental verticals would recover fastest. Renting a car for a road trip was believed to be safer for travelers than flying. Vacation rentals, especially those that offered a home without current residents, were thought to give travelers more control over cleanliness and, in most situations, would provide solitude away from shared spaces one might find in a hotel. Finally, vacation rentals are also a budget friendly option, which may be attractive to millennial travelers, as well as for those looking for longer term stays. Having a kitchen and multiple rooms is beneficial for giving that “at home” feel that a hotel may not offer.
Our data mirrored this, with bookings in both the car and vacation rental space recovering quickly, but slowing with the close of summer and a resurgence of COVID-19 cases. When looking at year-over-year data, we do see a midsummer decline for vacation rentals in line with 2019, however, the decline in 2019 happened a month earlier in June versus July in 2020. RV rentals, while not showcased in the graph below, were hugely popular over the summer and are currently seeing a declined interest, similar to what the data shows in the car rental space.
Mobile Bookings are on the Rise
An interesting trend our data shows is that of mobile usage growth. At a time when people are working from home more than ever, some may have expected the opposite effect. However, our data shows that in every region across the globe, the percentage of lodging bookings on mobile devices has grown substantially since January. This could be due to a number of factors. Internet speeds at home could actually be slower than 5G mobile speeds, as many people had not invested heavily in home office equipment prior to the pandemic. Another possibility is the ease of booking on mobile for some lodging compared to desktop. Whatever the case for this shift in the booking behavior, one thing is clear, travel marketers should be implementing mobile strategies (and cross-device strategies) now more than ever to ensure they’re in front of travelers where they are searching and booking.
What can you do now?
In our webinar, we polled viewers to discover what signals they look for in order to feel comfortable traveling. The top response was that 33% of people were looking for overall COVID-19 cases to decline, followed by 24% who reported they would feel comfortable traveling given good cleaning procedures and flexible travel options. Advertise your safety and health precautions, flexible cancellation, and change policies consistently. Do so through your marketing and email outreach to past and future guests, and ensure the actions you’re taking are in line state or regional expectations. These are easy actions travel marketers can take to reassure potential guests you’re committed to keeping their experience a safe one.
Continue to advertise your business. Of the travel marketers we surveyed in our webinar today, 36% said their bookings fall within the next month, with the second most (24%) falling during the holiday season from the end of November through January 1, 2021. This is consistent with our Sojern data, people are booking closer to their travel date, bringing booking lead times down. If your brand isn’t out there when travelers are searching and booking last minute trips, your competitors might be. This also tells us that holiday travel is still open to happening, so you should consider activating marketing campaigns to target holiday travelers.