Summer 2022 is possible A good one for travel and tourism in America. The following five key trends are shaping the industry, with implications for hoteliers.
Leisure travel is on the rise
Revenue per available room (RevPAR) in the U.S. is not only increasing at 2020 and 2021 levels, but at 2019 levels as well. RevPAR outperformance is largely driven by rates. Hotels are not as full as they were in 2019, but rates are up—the average daily rate (ADR) is now about 15 percent more expensive than in 2019.
Basically, people love to travel. We asked more than 1,000 travelers in the United States what they would do if they won the lottery, and spending on travel ranked as the second highest choice (Exhibit 1).
This summer, for many, the holidays will be “whatever.”
The survey also revealed that people are concerned about macro-economic factors such as inflation, but this is not enough to deter nearly 70 percent of travelers from taking a summer vacation (Exhibit 2).
Gas price increased? People move closer to somewhere. Hotel price prohibitive? They will search for a compromise. Consumers may find ways to cut back, but these factors don’t ruin their vacation plans (Exhibit 3).
The survey was conducted in June 2022, with travel plans set in motion. AAA estimates that 42 million people will travel by car over the July 4 weekend, a new car-trip volume record for the period — despite national average gas prices exceeding the $5 mark.
Additionally, hotel occupancy, ADR, and RevPAR statistics all exceeded the comparable week in 2019, and TSA checkpoint travel numbers showed a 15 percent increase for the Thursday and Friday before the July 4 weekend compared to 2019.
Guests have more accommodation options than ever before
The lines have blurred between accommodation categories, and travelers are looking for hotel, home sharing, all-inclusive, and outdoor/glamping options.
78 percent of travelers surveyed said they were comfortable staying in hotels, while only 61 percent said they were comfortable staying in alternative accommodations. The top five reasons for staying in a hotel include stability and predictability; security and privacy; convenient location; availability of concierge, lounge, restaurant, and/or other facilities; and low cost. By comparison, travelers may choose alternative accommodation options as they offer more space; domestic facilities; and an authentic or local experience.
So, where are these travelers planning to go? More than half (54%) plan to go to the beach – a popular choice among 25 to 34 year olds. The next most likely destination (32%) is a city/urban location, followed by a mountain/hiking trip (24%).
Loyalty is growing
In this environment of high prices and increased choice, efforts to maintain customer loyalty are intensifying. But surveys show that many travelers, especially the younger generation, don’t feel they’re getting enough value from loyalty programs, or that the programs seem too complicated.
There are some features of loyalty programs that are more important than others: offering discounts, having the right footprint so guests can stay where they want, and making it easy to redeem points are favorites.
ESG is gaining importance
While 75 percent of travelers surveyed agree that stability is important, only half would pay extra for it. But younger travelers are willing to pay more for green initiatives. Initiatives that currently resonate well with guests include the use of eco-friendly cleaning supplies; Replacement of plastic key cards with options; reduced use of paper, eg, electronic receipts; and smart devices and monitoring systems to optimize energy use.
Five ways hotels can respond to these trends
- Encourage staying “blazer” by highlighting local attractions and events. With leisure booming and business travel recovering, we expect to see an increase in comfort travel.
- Help guests find you when they’re looking for their next trip. Hotels can invest in their online and social media presence to communicate with potential guests early in their research. This is especially important as hotels face labor shortages and sometimes cutbacks in service levels: Communicate transparently to ensure guest expectations are set appropriately before guests even step foot on the property.
- In markets with heavy alternative housing supply, communicate the differences. Hotels can communicate what makes them better, especially convenience, consistency and available amenities.
- Upgrade loyalty programs. Hotels may need to revisit their loyalty programs to ensure they are addressing their new needs and help frequent and infrequent guests get the most out of their programs.
- Start green initiatives with clear and consistent guest communications. Hotels can think about how to attract eco-conscious travelers and build meaningful relationships with them that will lead to long-term loyalty.