Global Online Hotel Bookings and Rates Experience Highest Year-on-year Growth in Last 12 Months
July 23, 2014 10:21am
Forward-looking data suggests more growth in store through the beginning of autumn. Pricing remains a powerful influence, but substantial rate growth indicates it is not the only factor driving booking decisions, especially as online channels attract more corporate shoppers. More than ever, an effective online presence (on both the hotel website as well as through online travel agencies and meta search sites) is essential to capturing your fair share of the bookings available.
GDS CHANNEL (CORPORATE TRAVEL FOCUS)
Global performance through the GDSs reflects substantial corporate travel demand for the quarter. While business bookings eased below prior year in April by -3.8% and in May by -2.7%, reservations rose above prior year by +1.4% in June. The slower year-over-year growth in April and May was due in part to several global and regional holidays falling closer to the weekend than prior year, encouraging more leisure travel.
Despite the relatively minor fluctuation in global corporate travel volume compared to last year, hotels are consistently achieving higher room rates for business stays. Even during April and May’s slight dip, ADR increased by +1.9% and +2.8%; reaching a recent growth high of +4.2% with increased reservation volumes in June. Steady rate growth speaks to strong corporate travel demand that is not being overshadowed by excess new room supply, in most markets.
Transient, or independent, business travel is on the rise globally, along with group business travel. Transient has been the most resilient as an effective means of satisfying more specific client and internal needs. Group business has also returned as reflected by slightly longer lengths of stay and booking windows for the quarter. Conferences typically involve longer stays booked further in advance than transient trips. Year-to-date through June, the average length of stay has increased by +0.7% (2.15 nights in 2014 versus 2.14 nights in 2013), increasing by +1.1% in June (2.13 nights in 2014 versus 2.11 in 2014). Similarly, the average booking lead time increased from 16.73 days during second quarter 2013 to 17.05 during second quarter 2014.
Conference and convention travel results vary by location, and are impacted by factors such as government cutbacks and austerity programs. For the most part, companies are feeling more profitable and confident to spend on travel that will generate profit. This is also supported by data from Marriott International, Host Hotels & Resorts and Hyatt Hotels Corporation citing gains in group revenue related to second quarter 2014 bookings from +8% to +13%.
ADS CHANNEL (LEISURE TRAVEL FOCUS)
Second quarter leisure travel also experienced strong demand, delivering increasing global revenue growth to the delight of hoteliers. Holiday bookings grew over prior year at an increasing pace, from +3.8% in April to +4.1% in May, and finishing up a staggering +10.2% in June. Rate growth also accelerated from +4.1% in April, to +5.3% in May, ending the quarter up +6.5% over prior year in June.
A combination of pent-up demand, increasing financial stability and travelers making vacations a priority contributed to the increases in leisure volumes and rates. Even as Baby Boomers drive strong leisure demand, Millennials (aged 18 to 35) are expected to spend incrementally more on travel services than any other age group over the next 12 months.
Travelers have shortened trips to allow greater spend on room rates and services by limiting room nights. Year-to-date through June, the average length of stay (LOS) shrank by -1.4%, from 2.01 nights in 2013 to 1.98 nights in 2014. June’s average LOS shortened from 1.97 nights in 2013 to 1.94 nights in 2014. Shorter trips lend themselves to shorter planning and booking lead times, reinforcing the importance of a strong online and mobile presence. By allotting budget for extras, smart hotels will also ensure extra services are offered in any online booking experiences. Year-to-date for June, trips were booked an average of 20.86 days ahead of check-in, as opposed to an average of 20.73 days ahead year-to-date in June 2013.
GDS & ADS CHANNEL PERFORMANCE BY REGION
Because business travel performed well over the second quarter, most regions experienced positive revenue growth. Booking growth eased in North America as rate gains reaching +7.7% in June pushed revenue to grow +5.6%. Europe and Africa/Asia/Oceania experienced a boost in business bookings of +7.0% and +6.2% by June. With rates nearing prior year levels, this drove revenue growth of +4.6% in Europe and +6.5% in Africa/Asia/Oceania.
While South America saw business travelers diverted thanks to the FIFA World Cup in Brazil, the region also experienced a drop in online leisure bookings and rates in June. During times of high demand, savvy hoteliers will strategically limit room inventory available to more costly third party sites to drive more profitable direct bookings through the hotel website or call center. Rates will also fluctuate as booking patterns, media hype and room availability adjust throughout the event. As reported in the industry, high room rates at the start of the year priced many Brazilians and nearby regional fans out of the market, causing many hotel companies and intermediaries to readjust rates downward.
Leisure rates clearly played a major role in driving revenue across all other regions. In North America, double-digit booking growth of +11.9% in June, boosted by high rate growth of +8.1%, drove revenue growth to a remarkable +18.7%. Africa/Asia/Oceania’s ADR has also been consistently bolstered by strong reservation increases, keeping revenue +7.6% ahead of 2013 year-to-date. Europe’s substantial ADR growth of +6.3% in June overcompensated for a dip in bookings compared to 2013, salvaging revenue growth at +1.2%. Consistent year-over-year rate growth can be attributed to increasing demand that is still outpacing overall supply as hotels apply continually improved rate and distribution strategies.
FORWARD-LOOKING INDUSTRY TRENDS
Global GDS forward-looking data shows an ease in business bookings compared to prior year during July and August, months that are prime leisure travel periods. The channel will pick up again in September and October with strong rate growth, increasing at an average pace of +5% over prior year for bookings made for stays through October to-date. Organizations such as the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) continue to confirm a positive outlook for 2014 business travel. GBTA estimates U.S. business travelers alone will spend $292.3 billion this year, +6.8% more than 2013. Group meeting and/or convention travel spend is expected to increase by +7.1%. Business trips abroad are also predicted to grow by +6.6% this year, with the amount spent greater than 2013 by +10.3%.
ADS channel forward-looking global data indicates robust leisure travel through summer. Bookings made thus far for arrivals July through September are averaging +8% over prior year as room rates average almost +8% higher as well. Even with the average number of room nights per stay curtailed, these gains in reservations and rates look to keep revenue growth in the double-digits into September.
In fact, forward-looking data suggests the highest booking gains may be realized in August and September. Summer travelers are booking later in the season as many have yet to book their holidays. This creates real and immediate opportunity for hotels to fine tune their rate and distribution strategies, especially online, to win this year’s summer traveler.
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Pegasus has 18 offices in 10 countries, including regional hubs in New York, Dallas, Scottsdale, Frankfurt, London, Madrid, Sao Paulo, Tokyo and Singapore. For more information, visit www.pegs.com or www.openhospitality.com.
Contact: Ariel Herr
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