HB Exclusive: The importance of traveler-centricity in the new era of travel

By Hari Nair

With vaccinations on the rise and summer in the rearview, travelers have started planning for the holiday season, traditionally a time where many travel to reconnect with friends and relatives. And while trip planning still comes with some degree of uncertainty due to the ever-changing COVID-19 situation, people are determined to travel this holiday season.

Expedia Group data shows an increase of more than 200% in searches for trips by U.S. travelers in October, November and December. As suppliers prepare for the upcoming holiday season, it is important they emphasize a traveler-centric approach by understanding evolving traveler expectations and providing more security, inclusive offerings and flexibility.

This change in traveler behavior is an opportunity for suppliers to be more efficient and invest their resources wisely in order to develop true differentiation. As the needs of travelers evolve, suppliers must also adapt their strategies to deliver on these new traveler expectations.

Research from Expedia Group’s Traveler Value Index conducted in May shows that when booking trips in the next year, more than half of travelers (53%) want to trust that the provider will deliver on their promises. To build traveler trust, suppliers must ensure they can deliver on the specific amenities, features or policies included in their listing, while providing a range of options and prices, so travelers can ease their anxieties and focus on their upcoming vacation.

Among these new traveler booking behaviors, our research shows that their priorities have shifted:

  • One in four travelers (25%) now value full refunds above all other considerations when booking their travel plans, a huge shift from the conventional wisdom that price drives consumer behavior.
  • Nearly two-thirds of travelers (65%) are more likely to book with travel providers that identify their practices as inclusive. This includes properties that are owned by women, welcoming to the LGBTQIA+ community or supportive of people with disabilities.
  • Nearly three in five travelers (59%) are willing to increase their spend to make the trip more sustainable.

Suppliers should also offer their own flexible options, grounded in exactly what people want as they resume traveling. For example, to ensure booking flexibility, nearly 70% of lodging rate plans on Expedia Group sites are now refundable. Expedia Group also introduced a “No Credit Card Booking” function that allows travelers to book their last-minute trip without having to type credit card details. This initiative helps hoteliers improve their flexibility and unlock new opportunities they would otherwise miss.

As we enter a new era of travel with evolving customer expectations, suppliers must identify opportunities for efficiency especially when challenged with fewer resources and staffing.

The worldwide pause in travel has made us realize how important it is to connect to each other, connect with our communities and connect with other cultures. As confidence grows and people continue travelling, an excellent experience paired with superior customer service will be the key to gaining a competitive advantage and making the most of the holiday season.

Hari Nair is SVP/GM, lodging and activities account management with Expedia Group.

This is a contributed piece to Hotel Business, authored by an industry professional. The thoughts expressed are the perspective of the bylined individual.