It’s no secret that consumer sentiments on travel have been shifting tremendously throughout 2020. From the initial declaration of the state of emergency to today, we’ve seen people become afraid to travel, to being excited to travel, back to afraid to travel. It certainly hasn’t helped that the news cycle has continued to instill fear of travel rather than the reality that travel is safe if the travelers themselves behave responsibly.
We have produced 7 consumer sentiment studies since March and have seen first-hand how the general public views travel. We asked questions about how they feel about traveling, do they plan to travel, when they plan to travel, where they plan to travel, and what would be most important to them when they travel.
While we have seen these responses change drastically over the course of the last few months, one thing has remained constant. In each survey we asked “Which of the following would most likely persuade you to book a future vacation during the coronavirus outbreak.” The #1 response in all 7 iterations of this study has been ‘Flexibility to change my dates without penalty.’
The respondents have made it abundantly clear that they are willing to book as long as they have the freedom to change their dates due to unforeseen circumstances. Airlines have canceled people’s flights, destinations are being labeled as hot-spots, and people continue to contract the virus. All of these factors make people wary about putting their money down on a vacation. With so many things preventing someone from traveling right now, it only makes sense that flexibility remains the most important factor in convincing people to stay at your hotel.
The people have spoken. As a hotelier, we hope you’re listening. If you’re not already offering flexible cancellation or the ability for guests to easily change their dates without penalty, you are likely losing bookings to hoteliers that are.
Fuel’s Suggestions For Flexible Policies:
- Clearly state your flexible date change policy on your website, booking engine and marketing efforts
- Reiterate these policies in confirmation emails and pre-arrival emails
- Make it very obvious that these policies only apply to guests who book directly through the hotel
- Train your call center and/or front desk on these policies and ensure they are trying to persuade guests to change their dates rather than simply canceling
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