Understanding Travel Debts For The Next Normal

By Dennis Nessler | September 29, 2020

Ask anyone and you’re all but guaranteed they canceled or postponed a trip due to coronavirus. This in turn has created a backlog of potential business, leisure and group guests who are all but chomping at the bit for a chance to rediscover the world. For the savvy hotelier, this means staying cognizant of these underlying motivations then designing programs to meet these temporally sensitive drivers.

What we’ve seen this past summer may be a ‘one hit wonder’ in terms of guests rediscovering their local areas through staycations or embarking upon the ‘Great American Road Trip.’ Then again, it might not—if COVID-19 keeps borders closed then the summer of 2021 might be a sequel of sorts. Either way, there are many travelers out there looking for opportunities to get there before a second wave lockdown or the druthers of winter convince us to hold out for spring.

The travel industry could well move in such a way whereby all these pent-up ‘travel debts’ explode out the gates once we are fully free to move about the world once more. And in order for your property or hotel brand to effectively capitalize upon this inevitable rush, you must first understand the reasons for travel so that you can pick away at one or a few of these niches.

These reasons can include but are not limited to:

  • Local couples’ retreats, girls’ getaways or small wellness vacations where the idea is to alleviate any cabin fever with a quick trip that’s local;
  • Romantic getaways in the form of destination vacations where a proposal is the plan, intimate weddings, engagement or stag and doe parties, bachelor or bachelorette parties, anniversary parties, and any manner of elopements (whatever group size your state allows);
  • Concurrently, your sales team may already be looking ahead to bundle private nuptials now with a grand wedding reception sometime in 2022 when the coast is assumed to be clear;
  • Funerals, wakes and celebration of life parties;
  • Group meetings, conferences or reunions whereby some form of in-person year-end meeting is required in order to make top-level company decisions for 2021 and beyond;
  • Holiday ‘bubble bookings’ with families regrouping to an equidistant property to privately celebrate Thanksgiving or Christmas;
  • Corporate travelers and road warrior salespersons who have a travel quota that they’ve been unable to utilize during lockdown;
  • Customers who have a fervent sense of ‘patriotic tourism’ where they feel it’s their duty to help resuscitate the travel industry by supporting businesses with their wallet;
  • People who say, ‘the hell with it’ and decide to travel just because.

As you can see, the impetus for travel during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis are manifold. Importantly for each hotelier is that, like during antecovidian times, trying to appeal to everyone means that you cannot excel in one particular area over another. You have to pick your targets whereby deciding upon which to pursue should be a result of intensive senior planning sessions where you discuss what your brand means to guests in the next normal.

First thing to note about the next normal is budget and overall wealth. The coronavirus has crippled many customers’ bank accounts and they will need to be incentivized with fair rates and great packages. Moreover, this is the ideal time to see what your CRM and past guest data can do for you insofar as offering personalized one-to-one promotions to your loyalty base to help kickstart return visits.

A second important trend to work around is hybrid travel. With so many remote work policies and videoconferencing options, this in turn will lead to more business guests wanting to extend a day or so (that is, ‘bleisure’) as well as leisure guests stretching out their stays around that initial seed of a reason that got them out of the house in the first place. In this way, hybrid travel will favor those hotels that have promotions set up that motivate extra room nights.

Taken together, there are many reasons to be bullish on travel coming out of this crisis. The key, as always, will be to put in the hard work now so that you are fully prepared to exploit these opportunities when they present themselves in the coming months.


Dennis Nessler

Dennis Nessler brings more than 28 years of editorial experience, including some 17 years in the hospitality industry. He covers the industry editorially but moderates various high-level panel sessions at hospitality events and frequently conducts one-on-one interviews with C-level executives.

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