Booking.com team and partner

Winning peak season

The busy holiday season is approaching, so what can partners do to reap the opportunities? David Koker, Senior Director Central Partner Services at Booking.com explores

Senior Director, Central Partner Services, Booking.com

While the likes of micro-trips and city breaks have grown in popularity in recent years, the traditional peak season still remains a pivotal time for our industry. Almost half of global travellers still hope to take at least one extended holiday of more than five nights in 2019 (47% in their domestic market and 48% internationally)*, and most tend to take their holidays during the summer.

Peak season preparations

In the past, there was a perception that peak season bookings with Online Travel Agents (OTAs) were more of a last-minute trend, but increasingly our data is telling us that guests are looking much earlier than before. A recent survey found that 71% of global travellers actually prefer the security of having their trips booked in advance - with tourists from Asia attaching particular importance to a longer booking window.

The interpretation of an advance booking does, of course, vary: 43% of travellers look to book their accommodation more than a month out, with a third aiming for several weeks in advance. So, when we consider these kind of booking windows it places great importance on being prepared well ahead. In fact, we’ve seen a real change in booking behaviours with the initial searches starting long before the final booking is made. In this instance, it could be a chicken and egg scenario: the demand is there but the supply isn’t yet visible. That’s why updating your availability - both in terms of dates and rooms - is so important, ensuring you appear in search results at the right moment to really capitalise on that early interest.

There are, however, some customers that still like the flexibility of a last-minute vacation - for example, 40% of Dutch travellers, 38% of Argentinians and 37% of Swedes are less tied to making advance plans. You still want to be able to engage these potential guests early but you can meet that desire for flexibility through offering different rates for different needs or by offering targeted deals that could incentivise particular markets to book earlier than they might typically consider. Only when the opportunity is really interesting will a customer start booking; data backs this and it’s more prevalent throughout the busy holiday season.

The key to really making the most of peak season is working in a sustainable, structured way - this means taking advantage of the opportunities that offer value throughout low and shoulder seasons as well as filling your rooms during peak. What can you do now that will pose a long term benefit for your business? Have you shared the right information and content, have you set a compelling price for your rooms? Not only will these measures prime you for peak season, they’ll serve you in the future - improving your ranking and setting a solid basis for the year round.

Managing peak season operations

Peak season is a game of two halves - once you have secured bookings, you have the season itself. This can typically be an operationally intense time given the influx of guests, both those physically at the property and those due to visit who may be in contact ahead of their stay. Turnarounds between one guest leaving and the next arriving are likely to be shorter, leaving you with little time left to pick up the more administrative tasks. And ultimately you are trying to maintain the same level of service as a guest might experience when you have the luxury of time at your disposal.

Reducing any potential operational hassles is really critical. What are the actions you can take to reduce last-minute cancellations and how can you avoid workload associated with credit card validation? What are the tools and products at your disposal that will help you keep up with communicating with guests or managing your property details? Embracing a seamless and efficient communications stream while combining the human touch with technologies that address some of the operational pressures will culminate in a really stable foundation.

Peak season is a real journey and there are undoubtedly unknowns, but for over 20 years we’ve worked to understand the pressures our partners are under during this time and build a support system that helps them tackle these challenges. Anticipating what the trends are, acknowledging changing customer behaviours and technological developments, and investing in operational efficiencies all combine to help our partners make the most of peak season.

Head to peakseason.booking.com to discover how we can win peak season together.

*Research was commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 53,492 adults, across 32 different markets who had taken a trip in the last 12 months / planned to take a trip in the next 12 months. Respondents completed an online survey in October 2018. **Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of 21,500 respondents, across 29 different markets. Respondents had to be 18 years of age or older, to have travelled at least once in 2018 / planned at least one trip for 2018 and either the primary decision maker or involved in the decision making of their travel. Respondents completed an online survey in August 2018.

Takeaway
  • Peak season remains an important time for the travel industry, with almost half of global travellers looking to take an extended vacation in 2019
  • Over 70% of travellers prefer to have their trip booked in advance, with 43% looking to book more than a month ahead of the stay
  • Partners should check their availability, property content and rate plans well in advance to ensure their property is optimised for the season
  • Products that reduce cancellations, address credit card misuse and enable communication with guests (including messaging templates) can help with operational efficiencies