If it was the best of years, it was the worst of years in the tourism industry! The COVID-19 pandemic made an unprecedented impact on the global economy in 2020 with direct implications for the travel and hospitality industry. Airports were shut down to prevent the spread of the coronavirus across international and state lines. Theme parks, art museums, and sightseeing tours closed or had very fluctuating schedules to promote social distancing. The things tourist normally look forward to when planning were not available.   

Then, how could it have been the best of year for many of our hospitality clients? When we look at the travel industry, it is broken into multiple sectors that compete with one another for a guest’s booking. Due to Covid-19 restrictions, many usual destination products were less desirable and reliable. Therefore, less competition to the small and unique lodging industry.  

Travel products highly affected by Covid-19 restrictions: 

  • Many destinations had strict quarantine requirements such as testing and 14-day isolation.
  • Cruise ships which normally book up to 4,000 tourists a ship did not sail.
  • Amusement parks were closed for most of the last nine months.
  • Travel to popular destination such as Europe, Asia and many popular island destinations were not allowed.
  • Airline restrictions curtailed many vacation plans.
  • Majority of popular restaurants and culinary tourist destinations were closed.
cancelled cruise on ipad

Ironically, these restrictions opened up a window of opportunity for certain travel and hospitality businesses. Pent up demand caused more visitors to travel either in their own state or neighboring states. The “staycation” trend gained momentum. Road trips also provided a travel method that easily adhered to Covid-19 restrictions.

How smaller lodging properties succeeded in travel during Covid-19:

  • If your property had a visible Covid-19 plan that proved your property was safe, you might have been busier. 
  • If your property had private entrances to guest lodging and you provided contactless check-in, you might have been busier.
  • If you provided a safe breakfast experience you were busier.
  • If you had cottages or cabins where guests could dine and recreate easily, you might have been extremely busy!
  • If your property was set up for extended stays, working/ schooling vacations, you were probably busier.
  • If you or your marketing company adjusted your marketing strategy as trends changed, you were more than likely busier.
  • If your target market is leisure travel for baby boomers, you may not have seen as much decrease in bookings. 

Three-quarters of travelers said measures such as mask enforcement, reduced capacity or contactless services and flexible cancellation policies will inform where they stay on their next trip. – USTravel.org

Some of our lodging clients had occupancy of 90%+ in 2020. Many other clients saw record numbers during peak months like summer and leaf peeping fall. While that may have been exhausting it was certainly advantageous in such an unpredictable year.

Seven in 10 travelers want added flexibility, such as travel insurance and trip protection, full cancellations and refunds on transportation and accommodations. – USTravel.org

Why it was a worst year for some in travel during Covid-19:

  • If you did not have a visible Covid policy on your website, Google My Business, Trip Advisor you were probably slower this year.
  • If you were a traditional property with mostly shared spaces, you were probably much slower.
  • If you were a college Inn relying on students and their parents as your market, you were much slower or closed.
  • If you were seasonal and just did not open at all rather than try and meeting the many rules required by your state.

Two-thirds of Americans say the current pandemic situation makes them less likely to travel over the next three months. As a result, Americans are pushing out their travel intentions into at least Q2 of 2021. – USTravel.org

Depressing right? It was a very challenging year for all in the travel industry but small properties versus chain hotels made gains in their market share. We saw more reviews from people who chose a B&B for the first time over a hotel. People did not want to stay at a huge property with lobbies and 10 minute housekeeping, they wanted to stay where the owners make sure the property is sanitized because they too don’t want to catch the virus so their properties were sparkling clean and safe!  

51% say the vaccines makes them more optimistic they can travel safely by then. – USTravel.org

What does travel in 2021 look like? Countries are still actively battling the deadly virus but societies and industries are now also looking to rebuild and reemerge from the crisis. The recovery process for the travel industry will be complicated and lengthy. Although it will be slow the first quarter as the vaccine becomes widely distributed and we finally have herd immunity, I think cabin fever will make the May-October season very busy! 

Not sure how to approach your marketing in 2021 so that you capitalize on the latest trends? Let us help you learn from 2020 so that you can actually grow your business this year. Contact us to learn more.