With planes grounded, passengers reluctant to fly and international restrictions still in place, accommodation providers are directing their efforts towards the drive market to attract Australians looking to the open road for their next getaway.
The June 2020 quarter revealed just how much COVID-19 impacted domestic tourism with Tourism Research Australia reporting overnight spend 80 per cent down on last year while overnight trips fell 67 per cent.
However, in recent months we have seen a resurgence in people keen to pack up the car and splash some cash in their own backyard - and it’s something they’ll be looking to do for some time yet until people are confident with travelling overseas.
As accommodation providers capitalise on this opportunity, there’s never been a more important time to listen to customers.
The pandemic has not only changed the logistics of how we travel, but it has also shifted our priorities and approach to taking trips and where we choose to stay.
As operators, we have to re-think what accommodation means in the context of social distancing and hygiene - and do everything we can to give guests confidence in booking with us.
The once hidden task of cleaning has quickly become a key selling theme, with messages reaching every guest touchpoint from the website at time of booking to the confirmation email received to the native displays when they check in.
In this regard, people are also looking for smarter accommodation options - remote check-in and other services through mobile phones that limits the amount of contact needed. It’s set a new standard for both customer experience and expectation.
We may also start to see people taking longer trips, adding and extra week or two to their itinerary to stay and work remotely. This means they’ll be searching for places with high-speed WiFi, an appropriate place to work and perhaps even pet-friendly options.
And this extra flexibility may come with the need to change their plans. People are searching for more flexibility in their booking terms and conditions, which means being transparent about cancellation policies, refunds and amending booking dates.
Even as flight activity returns to near pre-COVID levels, it’s clear that some of these trends are here to stay – and leading operators are innovating change to future-proof their business.
We have all had the opportunity at some stage this year to stop and think about what’s really important in life – and COVID-19 certainly hasn’t dampened our innate human desire to travel.
As Australians plan out their adventures over the next year, the opportunity is huge for accommodation providers.
Those who come out on top will be those who can offer ‘bang for buck’ deals in desirable locations, give guests confidence that they are being looked after and cater to their flexibility – and this is something management rights operators have been doing for decades.