COVID-19 has had a huge and lasting impact on the hospitality industry. Gone are the days of planning a spontaneous getaway for the weekend. Instead, the booking behaviour of guests has become a much lengthier process.
Before the pandemic hit Irish waters in March, we saw Irish bookings take approximately 2-3 days to convert from the initial search . Now, the consideration phase of the booking process has lengthened three-fold, with guests taking over 7 days to book their stay, and visiting the site nearly 10 times before making the final decision.
With international markets decimated, hotels have turned their attention to the domestic market as their main source of revenue. Historically, guests would plan and book their getaway well in advance. But with the domestic market responding to local Government announcements, there is a sense of trepidation. As a result, the gap between booking and staying has dramatically reduced.
The average lead time for Ireland is currently 28 days, the UK 31 days and in the US just 17 days. This means an impact on your marketing strategy. For some this means you can adjust your rates to capitalise on these shortened lead times, encouraging people to book and stay within the same month. Priority channels would be Social, Ezines, and pushing these time focused rates on PPC.
A hotel should be looking at their lead times per market and basing their marketing strategies and budgets around this. You may consider last minute offers to boost last minute availability, capitalise on smaller groups of family and friends going away together, and also focus on county/region specific offers while adhering to local restrictions. Promoting these offers on social channels and including them in monthly ezines to segmented audiences will help promote growth within this shorter lead time period.
Lead times for international markets tend to be much longer but based on current levels of restrictions this will be a challenge for most operators. Consider planning for the future and try to ensure that you are open for business in order to accommodate International travellers. Longer lead times tend to occur for bookings in high demand periods, so there needs to be a focus on these periods and events. Planning is key and content should be updated not only on the hotel website for these periods, but also on the booking engine to ensure a good user experience. Plan and create a content calendar for the 12 months in advance and have the content ready on your website but not linked in the navigation until closer to the event itself. This is essential for SEO. Seasonal content should be left online to help with organic rankings, but updated once the event is finished, and removed from the navigation.
Read our blog on “SEO Tips for Season Content here.”
For some hotels, the first reaction to reduced demand is to stop digital spend. In a downturn, maintaining and often increasing your digital spend offers a competitive advantage and shifts revenues that may have otherwise been handed to your competitors. Before looking to pause or stop digital spend (even for a short period of time) it is critical to review your lead times and market trends with the associated revenues generated within this time and review whether your business can afford to turn away this associated revenue in this time period.
For revenue planning and market strategies, it is essential to monitor shifts in lead times on a regular basis and adjust accordingly.