Travel trends from Cloudbeds

Cloudbeds has launched its 2022 Travel Trends Report highlighting nine key booking, travel and macro trends set to shape the future of the hospitality and hotel industry as we learn from the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. A dynamic demand environment, direct bookings and longer stays are three areas identified that will lead the way in booking trends for 2022.

The report, which uses multiple reputable resources from across the travel industry, including Expedia, Vrbo, Airbnb and Skift, in addition to hospitality data platforms such as STR, to form its conclusions, offers insights into how the pandemic has influenced three major changes in booking habits that will impact lodging businesses in 2022. The report also provides tips on how to respond to these changing trends, as well as recommendations to hoteliers and property owners on what areas of the business to invest in, and tools and techniques on how to adapt, upgrade and promote their offering to optimize every available revenue-making opportunity.

Three key booking trends

1. A dynamic demand environment
One of the biggest impacts of the pandemic is that travel demand has been consistently unpredictable. Even factors such as location and seasonality are no longer as reliable as they once were. Much of the unpredictability has been driven by lockdowns and changing border restrictions, which has forced many travelers to cancel or change their plans at the last minute.

A single announcement can also drive enormous spikes in demand.

  • Travel searches from the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) region to the U.S. increased 95% week-over-week on Expedia after the White House announced it would soon lift travel restrictions for international visitors who are vaccinated.

Travelers, now used to such uncertainties, have altered their booking habits accordingly. Booking lead times have shortened considerably, with many consumers preferring to wait until closer to their trip to book it.

  • 79% of travelers are now booking within 14 days of their stay date, up from 24% in the previous year, according to STR.
  • Flexibility remains a priority for many travelers: Nearly one in three say that an accommodation provider’s cancellation policy is one of the top three factors influencing a booking.
  • A growing number of travelers are taking advantage of the flexibility by “trip stacking,” booking two or more trips over the same travel period in case COVID-related issues ruin their preferred travel plans.

2. Travelers prefer booking direct
At the start of the pandemic, as lockdown orders spurred mass travel cancellations, many consumers grew frustrated with online travel agencies for their poor communication and long delays in issuing refunds. The resulting negative press eroded consumer confidence in booking with OTAs.

  • In a June 2021 poll by GlobalData, 39% of consumers said they would typically book directly, versus 17% that would opt for OTA and price comparison sites.
  • According to Skift, 56% of bookings at independent hotels came from direct channels in 2020, up from 39% in 2019, a 17-point shift.

3. Travelers are booking longer stays
Prior to the pandemic, weekend getaways were one of the most popular types of trips, but that trend has since flipped.

  • A GlobalData poll revealed that 44% of travelers prefer leisure trips of at least seven nights, with 26% of travelers preferring stays of 10+ nights.
  • Extended stays are also rising in popularity: Per Airbnb’s Q3 2021 earnings report, long-term stays of 28 days or more are the company’s fastest-growing trip length and accounted for 20% of nights booked that quarter, up from 14% in the prior year’s quarter.