How COVID-19 has Changed Guest Booking Behaviours

How COVID-19 has Changed Guest Booking Behaviours

When 2020 began, business was swift and economies were buoyant. Before Q1 ended, the majority of the world was plunged into lockdown and people couldn’t or didn’t want to travel. Two years later, in Q1 2022, the hotel industry has changed in striking ways.

Some demands of guests have stayed important while other needs were on no one’s radar a couple of years ago. Bringing up contactless food service in 2019 would have seemed very off-the-wall.

Consumers have shifted priorities and some expectations have been amplified. This article will help you support the hotels you work with to get their processes and payments right to exceed customer expectations.

Changes to the booking process due to COVID-19

The two biggest factors that guests care about when booking a hotel have remained the same:

  1. Location
  2. Value for money

However, how these are assessed by guests did change during the pandemic and the difference may stick around. In 2021, British and European hotels saw less of a downturn in rural and suburban bookings while cities saw a big impact on stays.

Interestingly, third on the list of guest priorities when booking a hotel is now the cancellation policy according to a study by CoStar. Guests want to know that they will have an easy process to get a refund or rebook if the shifting sands of travel restrictions hit their plans.

Modernizing hotel payments so guests can book and pay by card gives them confidence in their booking. Asking for a bank transfer or other payment method feels harder to get a refund whereas card payments have protection from their bank as well as with the hotel’s clear cancellation policy.

Guests are generally using websites and social media for hotel information now. Hotels that have engaged with their guests online saw only a 55% drop in revenue during COVID-19 compared to a much larger 84% drop for hotels that didn’t step up their guest engagement. Hotel website blog visits have also increased 180%.

For a hotel, this is a perfect opportunity to secure a direct booking from guests. They are more likely to visit a hotel website to check regulations, health protocols, and other changes, and being able to make a booking and payment on that same visit will increase conversions and reduce payments to OTAs.

What do guests expect at check-in and during their visit, since the pandemic?

Once through the door, guests are still conscious of their health and safety. In 2021, 50% of guests expected a contactless payment experience and having a website or app to enter card payment details removes one of the biggest touch-points of the check-in process.

Contactless demands are about more than the day of arrival. The same CoStar report we looked at earlier said: 38% of guests want a contactless dining experience.

Along with the shift from buffet food, this means they want to pay for their meals without touching a POS terminal. Supporting your hotels with a consumer app where guests can authorize payments and get an instant email receipt hits this clear demand from guests.

There is a big shift towards on-site reviews; guests aren’t waiting until they get home to leave feedback. Review site Trust You, saw a marked increase in mid-stay reviews of hotels during the pandemic and supporting this with an app or email prompts will help hotels — on-site reviews get higher scores.

What can a PMS do to support hotels with changing guest expectations?

Guests have quickly changed what they want from hotels — less contact, more information, and an integrated experience.

The key things a PMS can do to help hotels meet the needs of guests are:

  • Enable contactless payments both for the guests’ stay and for extras such as tours, spa treatments, and even meals. An on-site app with a simple payment process will capture more revenue in a way that guests are coming to expect.
  • Offer ways to engage with guests, such as chat widgets and email marketing. Giving hotels the chance to interact with guests through chat and meaningful contacts will help build a relationship even before the guest books.
  • Have a user-friendly website and Booking Engine that supports guests’ thirst for information and desire to know what they’re getting. Build into that website and booking engine an integrated payment solution to convert them from lookers to bookers frictionlessly.

Partnering with Kovena gives your PMS the technology you need to offer hotels fully embedded payments. Reconciling payments with bookings is a simple process and sending a refund after cancellation — due to a customer contracting COVID-19 or any other reason — is a few simple clicks to secure a happy future guest, once they’re able to travel again.

Allowing guests to keep making secure payments for extra services is simple with Kovena, and the hotel’s branding is all the guests will see. This is a huge growth area, with 73% of hoteliers anticipating that non-room revenue will become more important to their business.

The pandemic has indeed changed the landscape of the hotel industry. Having a full suite of features to offer hotels will ensure your PMS is ready for the changes.

Are you ready to add integrated payments to your offering?

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