IHG Hotels & Resorts, which includes global brands such as Holiday Inn, InterContinental, Crowne Plaza and voco, has revealed new data about 2020 US and UK travellers. Its data also points, unsurprisingly, to the rise of staycations.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the lives of billions of people globally, damaging economies and posing the most significant obstacle the travel industry has ever faced.
“This rediscovery of the beauty that can be found in places that may otherwise have been overlooked will likely continue when travel resumes to pre-pandemic levels.” – Brian Hicks
But despite the hardships of this year, with many travellers putting their life on hold and some businesses coming to a halt, IHG Hotels & Resorts shares that the proportion of business and leisure bookings were similar in June to August 2020 to that of previous years – partly due to room bookings for frontline employees and other vital services.
“All around the world, from China to the US, we’ve worked closely with various organisations, governments and our hotel owners to assist our first responders and others in need by providing accommodations in hundreds of our hotels globally,” confirms Brian Hicks, IHG Hotels & Resorts’ Senior Vice President Commercial and Revenue Management.
IHG Hotels & Resorts’ staycations data
Travel in the US
IHG Hotels & Resorts’ new data reveals that with global international travel restrictions in place this year, domestic travel was the option of choice for travellers across the US.
The research indicates that more than half stayed in hotels within driving distance (300km) of their home, while the other half explored further afield within the US – 85% of guests chose to travel by car.
“People are as eager as ever to travel, but the pandemic has understandably changed priorities when travelling,” Brian says about the findings.
“With enhanced cleaning measures through our IHG Way of Clean program and more flexible booking policies, people have continued travelling this summer, with many opting for a staycation in the US.”
Rural vs cities
During the US summer of 2020, the Florida Panhandle made IHG Hotels & Resorts’ top 10 leisure destinations. West Texas, the Carolina Coast, and Atlanta also rose in the rankings, while big cities dropped down the list.
Brian further notes that there is a resurgence of rural domestic travel as travellers are developing a greater appreciation for exploring the small towns and cities in their home states.
“This rediscovery of the beauty that can be found in places that may otherwise have been overlooked will likely continue when travel resumes to pre-pandemic levels.”
With much uncertainty and changing restrictions, hotel booking lead times have shortened in comparison to previous years. IHG Hotels & Resorts shares that 63% of bookings were made within two days of stay, compared to 39% during the same period last year.
“There’s been a reawakening in appreciating small-town life, our families, quiet communities, reconnecting with nature and unplugging from technology.” – Karan Khanna
IHG Hotels & Resorts also introduced flexible booking options such as Book Now, Pay Later to give travellers additional flexibility.
The data also reveals that the number of 65-year-olds and above travelling dropped from 18% in 2019 to 15% in 2020 (March to August).
Given the nature of COVID-19 and the recommendations for older populations, senior guests saw the steepest decline in travel during the peak of the pandemic in April.
Travel in the UK
Residents in the UK were also more inclined to explore their own backyards by booking staycations closer to home.
“We’ve seen that people’s appetite to travel and explore hasn’t changed, but understandably their confidence in when it’s safe to do so has,” says Karan Khanna, Managing Director UK & Ireland, IHG Hotels & Resorts.
Karan adds that cleanliness and flexibility are top of mind for IHG. The introduction of enhanced cleaning measures and further flexibility has given consumers the confidence to continue travelling and enjoying their staycations in the UK and Ireland.
Despite some borders opening in Europe, most people chose to stay close to home with 95% of UK bookings made for domestic stays – higher than in previous years.
Additionally, more than 85% of guests chose to travel to their destination by car, and 9% opted for public transport.
IHG research revealed that 69% of bookings are happening within seven days of stay, compared to 46% during the same period last year.
Similarly to the US, the amount of 65-year-olds and above travelling dropped from 16% in 2019 to 11% in 2020 (March to August).
While other age groups saw a gradual recovery, IHG research indicates that stronger travel revival was among younger guests (35 years old and below).
Rural vs cities
IHG hotel bookings during the summer period saw increases in rural locations, with areas such as Kent, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, and East and North Yorkshire entering the top 10 most visited UK locations list – while big cities dropped down.
“There’s been a reawakening in appreciating small-town life, our families, quiet communities, reconnecting with nature and unplugging from technology,” says Karan.
“There’s an argument to be made that when travel resumes to pre-pandemic levels, it will be done with a greater sense of purpose and appreciation for local communities and the environment.”