As the pandemic and all its adverse economic effects subside, many industries are left with burning questions, and that applies to the travel sector as well.
How do we go back to business as usual? How do we get our customers back, and what do these post-covid travelers expect from us?
The best way to find the most accurate answers to these questions is to see how the pandemic changed travelers’ booking journeys, expectations, and needs. The latest research discovers that some adjustments are definitely in order.
According to the Phocuswright report, the travelers are ready to pack their bags and start traveling again but only if offered flexibility and spend protection. Some 70% of travelers see flexible booking as a must-have, and 30% of that 70% are ready to pay more to get the flexibility they want.
It simply means that more travelers think that it is the travel companies’ and hotels’ responsibility to introduce these perks while maintaining the highest standards when it comes to providing services and accommodations.
Let’s see why offering flexibility to travelers is so important and how travel companies do it.
The main reasons why flexibility makes a better travel experience
Travelers worldwide have seen that the ups and downs of the pandemic have been changing daily over the last two years. They have seen travel companies go bankrupt, and many were left without their money after booking trips in advance. These are just some factors that have contributed to creating this atmosphere of uncertainty.
If you look at travel experiences as a product, it becomes obvious why travelers are reluctant to book trips with substantial price tags in the post-covid era. Why would they buy a product in advance and risk not getting what they’ve paid for? That’s where flexibility comes in.
In the post-covid era, travel companies should not only be concerned with the reasons the flexibility makes a better travel experience. They should also be concerned with reasons why it enables travel experience. The behavior of travelers has changed, and the same goes for their preferences.
The latest research shows us that there is a significant shift in what travelers want from travel companies now compared to pre-pandemic. For instance, before the pandemic, only 20% of travelers were more likely to book a hotel if it offered flexible refund and cancelation policies. After the pandemic, the number increased to a whopping 76%.
The main reason why flexibility matters and makes a better travel experience is because it removes uncertainties for travelers. They don’t want to end up having their hard-earned cash wasted on a trip they don’t get to experience.
Instead, they want to have options without the risk of losing money hanging above their heads. They need those options even if something unforeseen happens without having to make sacrifices in terms of money and quality of travel experience.
How travel companies provide flexibility to travelers
Providing flexibility to travelers goes beyond enabling them to change rooms or buy additional amenities. It extends to airline tickets, hotel reservations, cancelations, and postponing trips. What can travel companies do to provide flexibility to travelers? The best thing is that many of them did introduce flexibility to travelers whenever the covid-related restrictions were lifted.
Instead of going back to business as usual and using the old policies, some travel companies continue with the revised cancellation, rebooking, and refund policies. That provides additional flexibility to travelers, which perfectly aligns with their preferences. It provides them with peace of mind, knowing that even if something unforeseen happens, they still have options and don’t end up with their money trapped.
Hotels are starting to significantly reduce cancelation fees and completely remove them from the policies. It goes in line with the latest traveling trend called “trip stacking”, where travelers book the trip they want the most and back it up with a trip that’s more likely to happen. Reducing cancelation fees enables them to engage in booking with fewer worries. Also Tour Operators and OTAs are working on new rates with refundable options that would cover any circumstance that might happen prior to the customer’s trip.
Some travel companies have provided flexibility by enabling short booking windows. It takes the burden of “having to plan trips months in advance” off the travelers’ shoulders. Some hotels even report that 65% of travelers booked a hotel only four days in advance. The hotel booking windows continue to shrink across the sector. In 2019 the average hotel booking window was 32 days, and it went down to 10 days in 2021.
The pandemic has also helped travelers realize how important it is to be proactive in preserving good health and building healthy habits. To be precise, the latest study found that almost 80% of consumers see wellness as important, while 42% see it as a top priority.
That’s why wellness packages and self-care holidays are getting into the spotlight. Adding amenities relevant to wellness and self-care adds flexibility, especially if hotels enable guests to use them when they want. Around 78% of travelers booked wellness activities during their travel.
In addition, over 40% of travelers look for relaxation options when researching options for their next trip. Providing them with the flexibility to book these activities and cancel them if they don’t have time to commit is a great way to provide memorable travel experiences.
Even though the pandemic seems to be over in many countries, tourists are well aware of the risks. They know that something unpredictable can happen, leading to their trip being canceled. That’s why they prefer the possibility of having their money back if something along those lines happens.
Many travel tech companies are aware of these developments and travelers’ expectations. It motivated them to start developing new travel products that offer a better travel experience, thus offering the insurance to travelers that their money will be refunded if they need to cancel their trip.
Ido, graduated from the College of Management Academic Studies, is Hotelmize Sales Operations Manager. He has a demonstrated history of working in the Sales & Marketing industry, and is paving his path in the Travel & Tourism industry. His skills in Negotiation, Interpersonal Relations, Team Management, Customer Service, and Sales Management, makes him a strong Sales Manager and a team player in the Travel Industry