Last Minute Bookings – What does Changing Guest Behaviour Mean for Hoteliers in 2021 and Beyond?
The pandemic that decimated most of the travel sector during 2020 seems to also have had an impact on travellers’ booking behaviour. Looking at India’s seaside state Goa for instance, gives us an insight as to how much more impulse-driven behaviour hotels can expect from travellers in the near future.
As the Times of India (2020) states, hotel occupancy around the end-of-year holidays has risen to around 80%, a number that’s reminiscent of travel’s heyday in 2019. Having said that, the journey to the 80% is vastly different, as Rajendran Menon, general manager at one of Goa’s resorts states: “Unlike earlier, the decision to holiday in Goa is taken at the last minute and so the booking window has shrunk.” In fact, the majority of bookings are now placed 48-24 hours before arrival.
Looking at the situation over in Spain, travellers show a 75% likelihood of booking their trip within a month of the actual experience. According to research from SiteMinder, online travel agents such as Booking.com and Expedia remain the favoured booking platforms, and with people now spending an average of over 3 hours on their phones, mobile-friendly and mobile-centred booking experiences are not only important but critical.
With the above in mind, hoteliers must now also look at their own ancillary services and start appreciating the fact that travellers will be more comfortable with very little travel planning ahead of arriving on-site. Ultimately, this leads to two paramount factors to be taken into account:
Ancillary services are in line for a revival
A last-minute mindset from travellers will lead to more flexibility required when it comes to ancillary services hotels have on offer. In other words, hoteliers can expect a more spontaneous crowd of guests, and that creates an unprecedented opportunity for selling any additional services. Having said that, hoteliers will have to become digitally savvy.
If, for example, the weather changes and all guests can look at are dated compendiums that are neither interactive nor omnirelevant, hoteliers will most certainly miss out on additional dollars, and the guests will have received an inferior service. If, on the other hand, the hotel is already somewhat digital, but struggles to easily update their digital platforms in an instant, the opportunity to recover revenue will be equally wasted.
The key to success here is a mix of real-time updates and direct messaging with guests. If the platforms you utilise don’t provide an easy-to-use backend for quick updates, go shopping for those that do. If you have no ability to stay in touch with your guests throughout their stay, find yourself a solution that allows you to do that, without any personal disruption caused for the guests. It’s now critical to keep your guests informed and to be able to react to sudden changes digitally. This is not only driven by COVID-19’s unpredictable nature, but ultimately by the change of behaviour it’s caused in humans’ everyday lives, which is now due to impact travel and hotel experiences.
Guests need help navigating the destination
The lack of planning on the guest’s part will potentially lead to reduced inspiration when it comes to exploring the destination. For the romantic, this is a great trend, as travel might regain a lot more spontaneity, with people seeking inspiration in-destination rather than making grand plans ahead of time.
For hotels, this simply means that 2021 is the most opportune time they will ever have when it comes to “taking part” in the guests’ journey across the destination and, as a result, gain more trust and a larger share of the travellers’ wallets. In other words, the Clefs D’Or concierge might be back!
In order for hotels to take advantage of this trend, technology is arguably the most critical factor. Technology must now assist hoteliers and their concierges in delivering a more personalised service via digital mobile platforms that deliver regular guest engagement and propel the hotel brand and influence beyond the limitations of the physical property. With travellers becoming almost exclusively mobile-driven, the concierge has to stay in the guests’ palms at all times.
As the pandemic continues to have an impact on travel and hospitality, it’s important for hotels in particular, to focus on the future opportunity. If guests that are now a lot more last-minute driven and spontaneous come back to environments that don’t take into account such changing behaviours, the choice between hotels and alternative accommodations will continue to narrow and might end up leaning a lot more significantly to the latter.
As with many things under review in the hotel environment in 2020, technology holds the key and has the potential to help hoteliers benefit from these changing behaviours, rather than being consumed by them. If you read this and don’t think that 2021 is THE year for hotel guest technology, you might already be fighting a losing battle.