U.S. Travel Searches Indicate Initial Signs of Hotel Recovery

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U.S. Travel Searches Indicate Initial Signs of Hotel Recovery

According to new consumer research from BVA BDRC[1] and supported by Expedia Group search data[2], Americans are increasing their intent to travel this summer, a positive indicator for the industry. While U.S. domestic and regional travel searches steadily dropped throughout March and into the first week of April, according to Expedia Group data, search has been steadily climbing over the last month in total volume. Expedia Group search data also showed that for domestic travelers who searched within the last month for July trips, there has been an average gain of 20% week-on-week. In addition to rising intent, the BVA BDRC research reveals changing traveler expectations and motivations that Expedia Group lodging partners and vacation rental property managers will need to meet, in order to capture early demand.

Accommodations first to recover; new cleanliness standards expected

According to BVA BDRC, nearly 40% of consumers polled plan to book an accommodation, whether a hotel or vacation rental, within the next three months. In addition, providing clear communication on cleanliness measures should be top of mind for accommodation providers. Here are points for accommodation partners to consider:

  • More than 50% of respondents expect hand sanitizer to be available throughout the hotel and enhanced cleaning regimes;
  • Forty percent of respondents expect staff to wear protective gear, such as face masks;
  • Vacation rental guests similarly expect new cleaning standards, with more than 50% expecting hand sanitizer on property;
  • Nearly half also expect a company-wide cleanliness standard for vacation rentals comparable to hotels.

Price consciousness is top of mind during trip planning

Expedia Group search data shows a 9-point increase from mid-April to mid-May in the number of searches for 2-star hotels, with 3, 4 and 5-star hotel searches down, indicating that lower price points are a factor in booking decisions. This value consciousness is further supported by BVA BDRC research showing a 57% increase from April to June in intent to use an online travel agency to book a trip, with 73% saying their reasoning is to get the best nightly rate. To meet traveler expectations on price, Expedia Group lodging partners should consider adding flexible rates and promotions to draw attention to their listings.

Travelers take the wheel in the near-term

According to the BVA BDRC survey, more Americans are considering traveling by car this year for their next vacation, up 20% year-on-year. Traveler interest in motorhomes and campervans is also on the rise, while trains, ships and planes are down approximately 25% to 35% from last year. Only 15% of consumers polled plan to book a flight for a trip in the next month, with around 1 in 10 showing interest within the next one to three months. With drive-to destinations on the rise, lodging partners and vacation rental property managers should consider marketing strategies to attract customers within a 250-mile radius.

Travel motivators

More than half of the BVA BDRC survey respondents are interested in visiting friends and family in the near term. 47% showed interest in destinations in the mountains or to a lake, likely due to the remoteness and potential ease to social distance responsibly. Sporting activities, both watching and participating, are the least likely trip type compared to their normal and past behavior, with 35% saying they are significantly less likely to plan a trip around one. To increase confidence among travelers planning trips to visit friends and families, Expedia Group partners are encouraged to add refundable rates plans that allow for cancellations or changes without fees.

Beyond tracking current travel intent signals and new expectations placed on travel providers, Expedia Group lodging partners can also better understand when travel demand will return and where demand will come from, using Market Insights.

Market Insights is a new analytics tool released by Expedia Group in Partner Central, the company’s suite of lodging tools. Market Insights aggregates traveler page visits and searches from across Expedia Group sites to provide an early indication of traveler behavior and intent at the market and submarket level, allowing travel partners to prioritize the steps they need to take rebuild their business with confidence.

Fueling industry recovery

As the travel industry sees very early signs of recovery, Expedia Group understands the critical role travel and tourism will play in reinvigorating the global economy and laying the foundation for long-term recovery. Expedia Group recently committed $275 million as part of its Recovery Program for travel partners, which includes a variety of initiatives designed to help stimulate business, from property relief, to industry-wide programs to destination rebound.

Full results from the BVA BDRC study can be found here.

[1] BDRC, “The Mood of the Nation” study, 500 respondents per week, with some data points leveraging 1,000 sample size per question, polled mid-April through June 2, 2020

[2] Expedia Group search data, Mid-April to mid-May 2020, for July travel dates