There's a lot going on in the world right now.
Uncertainty and unrest is not only palpable now due to Covid, but also due to the unsettling situation continuing to unfold in the Ukraine.
Recent data from the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) show that global international arrivals in January 2022 increased by 130% compared to the same period last year, meaning that during the first month of 2022, the global market registered 18 million more visitors - however figures still remain 67% below the pre-pandemic levels.
“The war in Ukraine poses new challenges to the global economic environment and risks hampering the return of confidence in global travel. The US and the Asian source markets, which have started to open up, could be particularly impacted especially regarding travel to Europe, as these markets are historically more risk averse,” UNWTO.
It's impossible not to consider these global issues while thinking about something as broad as international travel - and even though everything has an impact, and things are by no means back to 'normal', international travel levels are still looking somewhat positive. There is light on the horizon.
It seems that the majority of Americans (70%) are planning leisure travel in the next 12 months. CWT booking volumes also show a significant increase in travel to and from several countries that have recently relaxed testing and quarantine requirements for international travel.
City travel is back. After more than two years of avoiding urban centers, travelers are eager to return to their favorite metropolis and swan dive into the sights, bites and sounds of a city that is not their own - New York Times
Optimism for international travel
Recent data from Tripadvisor shows that 'hotel clickers' have increased month on month as countries have slowly reopened, with European travel intent particularly standing out.
It seems that European travelers are excited to travel more - for longer - and for more money. While interest in international travel hasn't yet reached pre-pandemic levels, it's still grown YoY. It seems that the majority of international trips are being planned further in advance - naturally.
Face to face meetings haven't been lost entirely
The pandemic challenged our capabilities in many ways, including how we conducted business, and meant face to face meetings of most kinds were essentially out of the question. While we have learnt that plenty can be done virtually, and done very well, we also collectively seemed to realise that at times, nothing beats seeing each other in person.
An analysis conducted by the San Diego State University School of Hospitality & Tourism Management on behalf of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) found that in-person business travel and meetings have undeniable advantages over virtual options. This means business travel (international or otherwise) is far from dead, and one to watch over the coming years.
Accommodating remote workers
The other thing to consider in relation to international travellers (and domestic for that matter) is the remote worker. This is the hot new guest type, and one that you will only continue to see arriving at your hotel over the coming years. More flexibility in the workplace has meant that a huge number of people can work remotely - meaning they can travel and holiday while they work, or maybe add on an extra day or two to their vacation - enjoying the luxuries your hotel has to offer while they open the laptop and get the head down for a few hours. Another name for this cohort? Laptop-lugging leisure travelers.
There are a number of things to consider to make this type of traveller more comfortable in your hotel including:
• a quiet and comfortable workspace
• fast and reliable Wi-Fi
• access to your gym, spa, fitness suite, healthy lunch menu etc
Some hotels are going one step further to accommodate and attract this type of traveller. CitizenM for example, have introduced a corporate subscription – a sleep-work-meet package for companies with remote workers who travel regularly.
Don't forget your guests' concerns
We may be out of the darkest part of the woods when it comes to Covid - but there's no denying the entire experience has left a lasting imprint on us. Your guests have changed, and so have their expectations. In Expedia Group's latest travel recovery trend report, they noted the continued importance of hygiene and cleanliness to guests. It's important that you continue to promote your hotel's health and safety policies, and cleanliness/hygiene policies. This means not turning off your content pages related to health and safety. You should also try and keep safety charter logos on your website. You can of course tone down the urgency in your messaging around this, but it should still be present.
Other considerations that will help you prepare for international travellers
Your hotel tech stack will need to be considered and built very thoughtfully in order to help you secure an international visitor's interest. Make sure that your booking engine, PMS, Channel Manager, marketing and other smart technology all align with each other and create the most hospitable experience possible for bookers. Expectations are high when it comes to the booking experience and patience for an online medium that doesn't work well is low. So get your tech in order!
Every travel trend piece for 2022 references the fact that experiences are key to travellers - an after effect from a pandemic that stunted our ability to experience anything out of the ordinary no doubt. Build a case for why your hotel is the place to visit. What surrounds your hotel that will add something special to an international traveller's experience? What is it about your hotel (and destination) that will stay in their memory forever?
You'd have to be living under a fairly sturdy and relatively soundproof rock to not be aware of the world's increasing battle with climate change and the concerns people have related to their environmental impact. The 'socially conscious' guest is becoming more of a regular and they are very aware of the efforts (or lack thereof) companies they engage with go to in order to reduce their negative impact on the environment. Think about small changes you can make to show that you care about this issue too.