There’s been much focus and discussion over the past year about the correlation between the return of group business and any kind of meaningful recovery for the lodging industry. And that’s certainly an indisputable fact as the industry can never expect to approach the lofty RevPAR and occupancy numbers of 2019 without it.
However, most industry insiders acknowledge that while there has been some recent momentum in bookings for the second half of this year group business as a whole is going to take a considerable amount of time to fully come back. It’s for that reason that I would suggest that instead the focus of hoteliers needs to be on those transient leisure guests looking for an overnight or abbreviated stay.
At the virtual NYU International Hospitality Investment Conference last month, a handful of leading brand CEOS, including Geoff Ballotti of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts and Pat Pacious of Choice Hotels International, detailed a number of changes in guest behavior in part as a result of the pandemic. Chief among those changes was a trend toward longer stays and younger demographics.
Pacious pointed out that the length of leisure vacations have been extended in recent years, which many of the home sharing sites, such as Airbnb, have exploited luring many of these guests away from traditional hotels largely for economic reasons. Further fueling this trend going forward is the fact that many Americans have banked significant amounts of vacation time over the past 14-16 months and intend to use it.
If you want further proof of this trend, just look at the performance of the extended-stay segment over the past few years. It has been particularly strong since the outbreak of the pandemic outperforming the rest of the industry.
This is not to suggest that traditional full-service or select-service hotels give up on trying to attract longer-term stays, but you may be fighting an uphill battle for the time being. It’s those short-term stays that can help drive your business back to pre-pandemic levels. This is where your marketing team needs to step up in a major way.
Hoteliers need to find creative ways to market to guests for these brief stays without dramatically discounting rate. We know that in the past the industry has relied heavily on third-party intermediary sites to fill that inventory. But we also know that comes at a heavy price in terms of average rate.
Ballotti, meanwhile, touted the resilience of leisure travel, but also noted that it is a younger less frequent traveler now that is less brand loyal. Today’s travelers are looking for an experience more than ever and your hotel needs to provide that for them.
With pent-up demand at an all-time high, some have suggested that this may be the best summer in the history of the hotel industry. It’s up to each hotel to make sure they are in prime position to take advantage of that.