All of us in the hospitality industry understand that COVID has dramatically altered the booking patterns of prospective lodging guests. Whereas planning a trip months if not a year in advance used to be the norm, that window has significantly closed.
The questions are: do you know your booking window, and what are your short-term and longer-term strategies?
DON’T GUESS. First things first: understand the booking patterns of your guests, right now. Don’t look at national trends or studies done 30 days ago. They’re irrelevant to you and today. Get with your reservations team, or if you’re partnered with an agency that’s deeply invested in you, get with them and identify booking lead times specific to you.
PROVIDE SHORT-TERM INCENTIVES. If a large percentage of your bookings are within an abbreviated period of time, provide discount or value-added (better) incentives to push those wanna-be travelers into the confirmed reservations category. And make the incentive not much longer than your targeted, identified booking window to stimulate book now actions.
Most importantly, remember that when you’re looking at 3- or 6-month projections, today’s short booking window will have you looking at numbers you probably thought you’d never see. But don’t leap to panic.
PROVIDE LONGER-TERM GUARANTEES. The only way the vast majority of travelers today will book months in advance is with a guaranteed out. Most of you know this already, and many hospitality branders have backed off date change charges or heavy cancellation fees. If you aren’t doing this yet, get on it — nobody’s putting down significant coin unless they have the assurance and peace of mind that they can change their plans without major penalty, should any situation warrant they have to change.
Another option is to provide value-added offers that are like money in the bank — giving consumers the option to purchase a block of credit at your property (with values added) that allow them to buy now (with a bonus) and book later, whenever they’re comfortable to travel.
YOU CAN LOOK BUT DON’T LEAP. Most importantly, remember that when you’re looking at 3- or 6-month projections, today’s short booking window will have you looking at numbers you probably thought you’d never see. But don’t leap to panic. Remember your current booking window, and your percentage of sales generated by that window. Hopefully, with the coming of vaccines and healthy practices among the public, that window will slowly open and return us to a better, new, older normal.
NOISE is founded in travel and tourism, serving more than 100 clients across 25 industry categories, while winning more than 500 industry awards and media praise.