It’s been an unprecedented year of change for travel - and we’re only two-thirds of the way through 2020. Here, we unpack Booking.com research to identify traveller trends that have emerged in the wake of the pandemic - and how partners can adapt to them.
Local outpaces international
Historically, domestic accommodation bookings represent approximately 45% of Booking.com’s total business. But in April of this year, the domestic share increased to approximately 70% - a trend that continued throughout Q2 and into July, with domestic room nights representing 70% of our newly booked room nights across that time.
Wish-list data also turned towards domestic travel. In May and June, in-country stays featured in nearly two-thirds (64%) of all wish lists created globally. A year earlier, domestic properties only represented 35% of wish-lists.*
Meet this trend by using Country Rates to capture domestic demand.
Beaches may be the ultimate escape
Beaches have always been popular escapes. In a post-pandemic world, they may be even more desirable. Research conducted in June found 45% of travellers expressing an interest in taking a beach trip in the future.** When they do make the trip, they may choose beaches that are more off the beaten path. We’ve developed intent-based search options to help partners capture that demand.
In parallel, rest and relaxation is the primary motivation to travel, with beach and nature getaways a way for travellers to satisfy this need.
Flexibility matters (now more than ever)
Research gathered globally in April shows nearly half (45%) of travellers would book a trip if it allowed for free cancellation. One-third (32%) said they would book if they could reschedule for free.** Simply put: travellers want to be comfortable when making a booking knowing that unexpected outbreaks of the virus could cause governments to go into lockdown with little warning.
As a result, flexible policies are in higher demand. As Booking.com CEO Glenn Fogel noted in an earnings call to shareholders: “We've all seen an increase in travellers booking stays with more flexible cancellation policies due to the uncertain travel environment we currently face.”
Want to make your rates more flexible? Use the new Flexible - 1 Day tool to convert your rates and ease customer concerns.
Shorter booking windows
Speaking of flexibility, last-minute trips are on the rise and booking windows are getting shorter month-over-month. Our research reveals that more consumers globally are now planning to book their accommodation within a month before their trip. In France and the UK, however, more people felt comfortable booking one or two months in advance in July compared to June.**
Cleanliness is key
Cleanliness continues to be top of mind for travellers, with more guests searching for transparency around cleaning measures at a property. In fact, since the beginning of the pandemic, we’ve seen a dramatic uptick in the use of specific words used by guests when they ask questions about a property. For example, the use of the words “clean” and “hygiene” have both increased by over 60%.
To help accommodation providers set accurate expectations and reassure travellers, we’ve developed new health and safety features that make it easier to display this information - alongside any other related measures or key on-site facilities.
Less planes, more cars
With international travel still limited by government restrictions in many areas, we’ve seen an increasing preference for people to travel by car, typically to properties within a 2-3 hour drive of their home. To help you capture those travellers, we’ve built-in new ways for bookers to find properties “near me”.
In April, travellers told us that, compared to 2019, they are more likely to travel with their own car and less likely to travel by airplane or public transport. Those numbers increased in May and seem to be holding steady.**
That said, there may be a generational component to this preference, with younger travellers (18-24 years old) saying they are more likely to travel again by plane this year than older travellers.
A more sustainable mindset
One-third of consumers (36%) say their desire to travel sustainably has increased as a result of COVID-19. Nearly half (44%) see a positive impact the pandemic has had on the environment. It’s made them want to carefully consider sustainable travel choices when they travel again - meaning sustainable travel is likely to be more top of mind for travellers than ever before.**
“Before COVID-19, we were already seeing more and more travellers develop a sustainable mindset when it comes to travel,” says Gillian Tans, Chairwoman, Booking.com. “But now that we've seen just how much a difference it makes to fly less or how beautiful a destination is when it isn't over-touristed, I don't think that's something travellers will soon forget."
*Based on comparing wish list data on Booking.com between March and April 2020 to the same months in 2019.
**Research commissioned by Booking.com and independently conducted among a sample of adults who have taken a trip in the last 12 months. Respondents were from Germany, France, Great. Britain, Italy and the US, and completed an online survey.
- Domestic outpaced international travel, with the domestic share of bookings reaching approximately 70% throughout Q2 and into July
- Flexibility is key, with nearly half (45%) saying they would book if they could get a free cancellation. One-third (32%) would book if they could reschedule for free
- Cleanliness continues to be top of mind for travellers, with more guests searching for transparency around cleaning measures at a property
- Other behavioural preferences include: more people want to travel by car than plane, beaches are popular destinations, and more people are thinking about sustainability