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According to the latest Need to Know research, conducted by TravelAge West, most travel advisors feel that hotels could do a better job at supplying safety protocol information. In a survey of nearly 400 advisors conducted between July 27 and Aug. 2, 43% report that hotels are doing a good job, but 47% say they could do somewhat better. An additional 11% say that hotels are not providing enough information.
This is important because 71% of advisors also say that their clients are either very or somewhat nervous about staying in a hotel right now.
When it comes to the type of information advisors want about hotels, safety is clearly the biggest concern — 36% want more information about cleaning procedures in guestrooms, and 20% want more intel on “back of the house” procedures. This is followed by information on restaurants and dining (17%), hotel occupancy and capacity (14%) and public areas (13%).
This data struck a chord with Donna Alkarmi, owner of Lone Star Travel in McKinney, Texas.
“As long as there are no consequences for not following the rules, I don’t think we can expect most people to jump back into travel,” Alkarmi said. “Hotels are not actually being monitored by any agency or government, leaving it up to the hotel chains to take it upon themselves to make the advisors feel confident selling them.”
Despite the tumult in the travel industry, most advisors (82%) indicate that their hotel brand loyalty has not changed since the pandemic started. Going forward, the ease of working with a brand, combined with its safety measures, is going to be crucial. Most advisors (40%) list cancellation and refund policies as the top concern, followed by trust in safety protocols (27%) and flexibility/ease of working with the hotel (25%). These factors came in far ahead of consortia partnerships (5%) and commissions (3%).
“The ability to close a sale is the top priority, and to do so, we have to be able to offer clients cancel for any reason [CFAR] cash back penalty waivers,” Alkarmi said. “We are all in survival mode, and making the sale with this added feature is key. Loyalty is not coming into play for me right now, but who has the best pricing and CFAR waivers in place”.
While 63% of advisors believe their clients will pay more for enhanced safety, it is clear that hotels are facing stiff competition from other accommodation options. Nearly 6 in 10 advisors (59%) say their clients are choosing alternative accommodations such as private homes, timeshares, camping, recreational vehicles and more.
However, Alkarmi says this is not the case with her recent sales.
“I haven’t had one request for this alternate type of vacation,” she said. “I have sold 14 packages in the past three weeks — all for Mexico — not including the rebooking from earlier trips that were cancelled. People are going stir crazy and are ready to take that two- to three-hour flight.”
“Need to Know” is a new weekly research series from TravelAge West that tracks the responses of advisors as they relate to various travel trends and topics. This survey recorded the responses of 397 advisors across the U.S. Click here to see more Need to Know stories.