The face of travel today looks very different from just a few months ago. As temperatures rise, leisure travelers are venturing out for summer breaks. While travel took a dip during the peaks of COVID-19, families are again beginning to step out for a change of scenery and a needed break. That said, families are taking many things into consideration when they travel this summer. With concerns over COVID-19 still looming, what travel looks like and what travelers are looking for in a destination and a hotel have shifted.
According to STR, leisure travel began to recover in May. Regional or drive-to destinations with outdoor spaces and activities became very attractive. The beaches of Florida and Texas began to show signs of life as travelers began to leave their homes for the first time in months. Travel continued to climb through May and Memorial Day weekend rebounded as travelers visited beaches, mountain resorts, and smaller regional cities. Hotel owners and operators in the United States have followed the progress of China as that country came back from COVID-19. The same travel patterns that emerged in China in the early days of the lifting of stay-at-home orders were the same patterns hoteliers saw in the U.S. hotel market.
Hotels looking to capture more family travelers now that the stay-at-home orders have lifted slightly throughout much of country have increased the visibility of cleaning efforts throughout their properties. Hoteliers understand that training the team on the standards of cleanliness, clearly documenting the cleaning work that was done, and clear messaging and signage can all contribute to helping guests understand your cleaning procedures and bring confidence back to travelers.
Families are looking to travel this summer, but are searching for a variety of lodging options and activities. More families are looking to stay in a destination that has properties that can accommodate a family but are also away from the masses. Additionally, families are looking for a variety of outdoor activities such as hiking, self-guided tours, and water sports to allow kids to be kids but still remain safely away from others.
Many hotels are moving to creating agendas for guests including activities that would allow for social distancing. Hotels are pivoting their marketing strategies to connect with local residents through both community servitude as well as offering a respite from staying at home with staycation offers, complete with new in-room streaming technology such as Netflix, or even offering a robust take-out program including complete family meals and themed cookie decorating kits to take home and decorate together. In addition to hotels, vacation rental homes and condos have become particularly attractive this year as well. Families can all stay under one roof and go grocery shopping for meals at the rental instead of dining out.
Family travel this year looks very different from the travel of the past. While it is clear that many families are in search of a change of scenery from the walls of their homes, what a family vacation will look like in 2020 will be unique. Parents who are planning family getaways are weighing their options to include properties’ cleanliness and safety as well as opportunities to be away from the large crowds. Hoteliers have been working to communicate their training and cleaning procedures to reassure guests that their properties are safe and clean. This will be the year of travelers and the hotel community coming together to keep us safe while traveling.
Janet Kurtz is president & CEO of Kurtz Hospitality Marketing.