COVID-19 April Impact on Hotels – Demand on the Rise
- Posted by Brett Perry
- On May 6, 2020
After an unprecedented month, hotels are feeling the impact of COVID-19 like never before. According to STR, almost 8 out of every 10 hotels rooms are empty. Many properties have reduced staff to a barebones crew and in a lot of cases, shuttered their doors completely. For some, these cost-saving measures are the only way to survive the pandemic. Boutique hotels can especially struggle if their brand doesn’t carry the same weight as flagships in their market.
Each week in April, we analyzed how prospective travelers are shopping online in a specific market. Now we will take a step back and identify the trends across the entire month. However grim the headlines may be for the hospitality industry, positive signals are beginning to take shape.
Demand has Increased 60%
Since the first week of April, there has been a 60% increase in shopping visits.* What started off as small jumps, has turned into dramatic leaps from week-to-week. With stay-at-home orders being loosened and states beginning to open back up, people are getting the urge to travel and that is reflected in the volume of visits we are seeing. While conversion is still lower than normal, the sudden shift in shopping behavior highlights a renewed interest in travel.
*At Screen Pilot, we are measuring booking engine activity across the nation and identifying patterns in shopping behavior. It’s important to note these visits are only captured when a user changes the date. Thus, indicating an interest in future travel.
STR has discovered a similar trend for consumed rooms across the United States. Over the final two weeks of April, the total room demand increased by 1.44 million. This is the first sign of an uptick since early March.
The Shopping Window is Shrinking
With travel demand on the rise, users are beginning to shrink their window for prospective travel. What does this mean? People are looking for dates in the near future as opposed to 4+ months out. The curve has been flattened for new COVID-19 cases in the country and it has resulted in more people looking to travel sooner. From the peak in mid-April, we have observed a 23% decrease in the average shopping window. For the first time since March, our data highlights an average shopping window below ninety days.
Drive Markets are Key
Not many properties can afford to enable all paid media efforts they were once running. There may not be enough budget for brand and non-brand, the target markets may need to shift and some hotels may wait till the summer to advertise. However, waiting too long could result in more damage in the long run. If your hotel is monitoring some of the important KPIs we mentioned last month, you may have a strong grasp on your paid media strategy. Yet, there is one crucial component to consider when advertising your property: The Drive Market.
Even though airport traffic is trending in the right direction, it is still microscopic when compared to 2019. It is vital for our industry that airlines see a climb in travel over the rest of the year. In the meantime, people who are hesitant to fly may rely more on their car. Google Trends shows a steady incline in search interest for the term “road trips” since the beginning of April.
How do properties capitalize on this boom in car travel? Adjusting targeting for paid media is one step in the right direction. Limiting the spend to a specific radius around your property can help increase Return on Ad Spend and capture more qualified users. Paid messaging isn’t the only item that needs updating. Your website should feature content regarding road trips and pairing this with the updated cleaning policies can go a long way in gaining trust with the user. People need to imagine a road trip to your hotel, help them visualize that.
As you put your drive market strategy together, consider using this data source by Arrivalist to gain perspective on travel in your area. The map shows weekly trends of distance traveled based on GPS data. The last week has shown a steady increase in people traveling by car.