Photo by Nick Wong

Usually by this time of the year, the hotel industry would be busy preparing for the spring season. Instead, hoteliers are spending their days (and nights) pondering when the pandemic will run its course and when business will resume.

The good news is that pent-up demand for travel means consumers will probably be travelling sooner rather than later. A new survey conducted in the U.S. by Morning Consult and commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) shows consumers are optimistic about travelling again in 2021, with 56 per cent reporting they’re likely to travel for vacation this year. But it’s important to recognize those numbers represent a significant decline from pre-pandemic levels, when approximately 70 per cent of Americans took a vacation in any given year, according to OmniTrak (TNS) data. And, it’s also important to note that Americans have dealt with fewer restrictions during the pandemic than Canadians.

Still, since the onset of the pandemic, just 21 per cent of survey respondents reported travelling for vacation or leisure, and only 28 per cent reported staying in hotel. Prior to the pandemic, 58 per cent of survey respondents said they stayed in a hotel at least one night per year for leisure, and 21 per cent stayed at least one night per year for work.
The survey also found that while consumers remain optimistic about travel, consumer confidence about staying in hotels is directly tied to widespread distribution of the vaccine: 11 per cent say they will feel comfortable staying in a hotel when vaccines are available to the general public; 20 per cent when a majority of Americans have been vaccinated; and 17 per cent when they are personally vaccinated.

As many have postulated, the AHLA survey states the recovery of the travel industry is anticipated to take place in three phases: leisure travel; small and medium events; and group and business travel. While recovery will begin in 2021, some pundits believe full recovery won’t occur until 2024.

In the meantime, the pandemic is fuelling new trends, including the blurring of lines between business and leisure travel. During this unprecedented time, several hotels and resorts have responded by offering guests the opportunity to work at hotels and providing the necessary tools to work remotely and efficiently, including high speed Wi-Fi, dedicated workspaces and printer access. The pandemic has also fuelled more interest in low-
density resorts, with the allure of wide, open spaces, and their focus on privacy. And, of course, the biggest trend of all continues to be contactless technology, which will spur hoteliers to continue providing hospitality through fewer touchpoints.


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