2020 has been a challenging year for the hotel industry, and it’s about to get a little more interesting – especially for your booking recovery strategy.
After months of empty rooms, abandoned pools, silent lobbies, and The Shining vibes, the travel industry is picking up with a bounce in domestic travel. In fact, hotels across the States are selling out, alongside a rise in vacation rentals and a surge in boutique stays.
And, it’s not just a boom in staycations that’s rocking the industry; we’re seeing a new traveler emerge too – the COVID traveler.
The COVID traveler is one who is cautious about safety, early in their planning, eager in their comparisons, and last-minute in their booking – making them more likely to abandon their booking, yet easier to recover when you know how.
To understand and stay one step ahead of your new audience, we’re examining the unique challenges and opportunities your hotel now faces and sharing the hotel reservation recovery strategies your business now needs.
The Challenges and Opportunities Post-COVID
Experts predict international tourism will plunge between 60% to 80% in 2020, with tourism spend not returning to pre-crisis levels until at least 2024. While we wait to see if these worrying statistics are correct, some more immediate effects are already taking place – not all of which are bad.
International tourism might be down, but domestic travel is on the rise. Some insurance providers are experiencing a 19% increase in staycation queries, meaning that the rest of the year could be busy for your rental.
A recent study found 82% of people don’t currently feel confident traveling, with concerns surrounding hygiene, social distancing, and infection. However, of those people, 63% are still willing to travel, albeit with caution.
This caution is causing a surge in last-minute bookings, as travelers take time to research options and understand the current situation. It might sound terrible, but actually, it gives you a lot more time to nurture leads before they book elsewhere.
People have become more internet savvy during the lockdown, after being forced to shop and communicate online during the pandemic’s depths. In ecommerce, this has caused an increase in comparison shopping, which will likely be replicated in the travel industry.
However, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Being more internet savvy means many travelers are more confident looking beyond OTAs, exploring direct vacation stays, and even making direct bookings.
Business and personal budgets have been hit hard this year, with many losing business and facing redundancy. And, we all know, tighter budgets = more shopping around for cheaper stays.
But, tighter budgets give you more emotions for your recovery tactics to target – using persuasion methods to demonstrate value and risk aversion tactics to drive more direct hotel bookings.
Finally, both international and domestic travel risks have ballooned, with more chance of plans changing and vacations canceling due to a second-wave.
Yet, the statistics show people are eager to get away and get back to normal – and a vacation is a perfect answer.
Together, these industry challenges mean booking abandonment is skyrocketing, similarly to ecommerce. But, just like ecommerce, this presents you with a unique opportunity to recover more customers than ever before – making your booking recovery strategy crucial for your post-COVID recovery.
How to Change Your Booking Abandonment Strategy for the New Traveler
In 2019, your booking abandonment strategy probably focused on recovering visitors after they abandoned their reservation on the booking confirmation page, using booking abandonment email tactics that increased perceived value, heightened feelings of scarcity, and brought them back to your website to complete their booking.
However, it’s clear the booking journey and guest motivators have changed.
The cautious traveler is now spending more time in the following three phases of the booking journey:
- Awareness phase
- Consideration phase
- Booking phase.
Whereas your 2019 booking abandonment strategy focused on recovering visitors lost during the third phase (those who entered their details on the booking confirmation page), your 2020 booking abandonment strategy must support and coaching customers through all three steps. Only when you do this, can you recover the most amount of bookings possible.
How? Let’s take a look.
The awareness phase
The awareness phase is when a visitor clicks onto your website and starts exploring your pages and rooms. Before, this stage was all about selling them the vacation dream; today, this stage is plagued with thoughts of COVID fear, caution, and comparisons leading to abandonment.
You can use the awareness stage to prevent booking abandonment happening at all, using on-site retention tools to combat those feelings of fear, remove those thoughts of comparison, and resell that dream of getting away.
For example, you could use:
- A booking nudge pop-up to remind visitors about your COVID-friendly policies and money-back guarantee.
- A delayed pop-up to provide customers with a free cancellation offer in return for their email address.
- An exit-intent pop-up to offer customers a free travel guide straight to their inbox.
Top tip: use these tools with a real-time lead capture tool to record a customer’s email address and contact information as they type it onto your website. You can use this information to contact them should abandonment occur.
The consideration phase occurs when a visitor clicks onto your website, looks around, but leaves before making it to the booking confirmation page (also known as browse abandonment). Before, this stage was largely overlooked in preference for its bigger sister: booking abandonment.
Post-COVID, this stage has become crucial because more travelers are abandoning during the consideration phase, intending to make a last-minute booking when it’s safer to do so. You can use this unique and extended opportunity to continue engaging with your lead and encouraging them over the booking line.
For example, you might use:
- A browse abandonment email campaign to softly re-engage and reassure visitors, using tactics such as risk aversion and personalization that overcome fears and reignite excitement.
- Real-time abandonment notifications to alert your sales team of booking abandonments over a certain value or a particular type, to perform a manual outreach step to speak to customers about their travel concerns.
The booking phase happens in the final stage of the journey, where a customer selects their room and dates, enters their details, but fails to complete their booking. Pre-COVID, booking abandonment recovery was likely your primary customer recovery strategy; post-COVID, it’s still crucially important.
Travelers abandoning at this stage are most likely concerned about the safety and risk of making a vacation booking during a pandemic. You can tailor your current booking abandonment email campaign to overcome such booking blockers, using tactics including:
- Story-telling – reminding visitors what it was like to travel, indulge, get away, and be waited on, using photographs and storytelling.
- Risk aversion – mitigating the risk of booking with you by providing information on free cancellations, COVID-safety certificates, and money-back guarantees.
- Value – making it more cost-effective for visitors to book in advance by offering discounts or upgrades.
By following and supporting your new customer through every step in the booking process, you reduce abandonment from happening, warm-up leads until they are ready to make a booking, and convert leads who are eager to finally get away.
But, Don’t Forget…
2020 might feel like the longest year yet, but things are moving pretty fast. Keep testing your tactics and watching abandonment replays to understand and respond to the reasons behind abandonment, and recover visitors during and beyond the pandemic.
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