Despite the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, European consumers have returned to travel and are already planning their future trips, according to Phocuswright’s latest survey with insights on consumer behavior in five key European markets – France, Germany, Italy, Spain and the UK.
Titled “Drivers of customer satisfaction in a renewed travel market”, the survey as carried out at the end of the summer and includes responses of over 4,000 people.
Presenting the survey’s data to the audience of the 5th International Hospitality Forum, held by the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels on Saturday, Phocuswright Senior Market Analyst Peter O’Connor said that while many future trips concern domestic travel, the percentage planning of at least one regional (European trip) is quite significant.
According to O’Connor, this suggests that travel will more definitively rebound over the next 12 months. He informed that the trends show that European consumers will seek relaxation after “a hard couple of years couped up and limited” to their homes.
“The good news for Greece is that – with a focus on rest and relaxation – consumers want much of what Greece has to offer,” he said, adding that consumers in particular want the tranquility of the beach and the countryside, with urban trips significantly less in demand.
“Selling this aspect of your destination will be very important in terms of attracting future business,” O’Connor informed the audience of Greek hoteliers.
‘Greece’s recovery has already started’
Touching on Greece’s performance in 2021, he commented that the recovery seems to have already started.
“After you lifted most of your pandemic-related restrictions before the summer tourist season, a significant number of foreign visitors poured into the country, with tourism revenues regrowing to about 50 percent of 2019 figures, still lower than we would like it to be but significantly higher than many other European destinations,” he said.
O’Connor added that more European travelers are now travelling internationally but with the environment still uncertain, most still want to remain close to home, making Greece a very attractive destination.
Europeans are taking shorter trips
Phocuswright’s consumer survey showed that one of the trends of travelers is that Europeans are taking fewer trips than in the past, with four out of five just taking 1 to 2 trips last year.
“In general, these trips seem to be shorter, with trips of over one week getting significantly less common,” O’Connor said.
“That extended two-week vacation that has characterized European travel seems to be put on the back burner for the time being,” O’Connor said, adding that this is something destinations should think about they are designing their products to appeal to consumers.
Infection rates remain a vital indicator for safe travel
More than one in three consider the Covid-19 infection rate decline in destinations, before booking travel and personal vaccine status isn’t the only consideration. Travelers, especially older travelers, seek out environments where peers are likewise vaccinated.
Not all travelers comfortable providing proof of vaccination
The survey showed that while travelers are willing to put up with the new rules and increased safety precautions (masks and social distancing) due to Covid-19, only half are comfortable providing proof of vaccination and an even smaller percentage is willing to download apps to allow tracking of close contact and particularly tracking within the destination.
However, one of the trends noticed is that an increased percentage of people are preferring the security of an offline customer service representativecompared to previous years.
“In most cases, this was driven by a need to reassure themselves, about safety efforts, restrictions, that restaurants and activities were open and so on,” he said.
O’Connor highlighted that this gives hotels a “massive advantage” over intermediaries, online or offline.
“Being able to leverage this direct knowledge, and perhaps selling yourself as the safest place to book, could be very powerful,” he said.
Vacation rentals vs hotels
O’Connor noted that as a result of the pandemic, a now very large percentage of travelers actively consider a vacation rental style property for their leisure travel, with price and location being the main reasons.
“Value for money has become incredibly important… Whether it is true or not, consumers increasingly feel that are offering better value for money than traditional accommodation,” he said, adding that the traditional hotel industry can compete by offering superior customer service.
O’Connor added that cancellation and refund polices are also something that consumers are looking much more closely at before booking.
“So being flexible here can be very effective at driving more business,” he said.
Eco-friendly hotels can drive increased business
According to Phocuswright’s survey, sustainability has become a key issue for European consumers, with over one third actively seeking out eco-friendly hotels and willing to pay a higher price for a more sustainable product.
“This trend is even more notable in the F&B area, with over two thirds wanting ingredients to be locally sourced and over 50 percent willing to pay more for such experiences,” he said.
In summary, O’Connor said that things are looking up. “Travelers are ready to, and have returned and are more than willing to put up with small inconveniences as a result of restrictions,” he said.
He added that the hotel industry has to work harder to insure their share of the pie.
“Vacation rentals are gaining in popularity, so to regain market share you need to stress the value for money and the customer service elements of the hotel experience,” he concluded.
The 5th International Hospitality Forum (IHF) was held in partnership with Phocuswright.
The Greek Travel Pages (GTP) is a media supporter of the 5th International Hospitality Forum.