3 Data-Driven Strategies to Court Travelers as we Emerge from the Pandemic | By Zander Buteux

As we look forward to summer, hotels and rental hosts are going to be challenged with how to market to the cautiously optimistic wave of travelers as they selectively consider options. Online rental search company VacationRenter actively monitors trends in customer searches, and our latest data indicates a new set of travel priorities for summer 2021.

Not surprisingly, our search filter for cleanliness continues to rank high—and our RV rental bookings, which rose by 350 percent last year, remain strong. But, as one of the fastest growing travel startups in the world, our aggregated data tells a new story of what travelers want out of their lodging; and how hosts, property managers, and hotels can best cater to those expectations.

Big picture: Travelers are seeking out accommodations that provide a healthy buffer zone from others, lending a heightened sense of safety and security to their stay. Creating or enhancing that sense of seclusion and comfort, even in spaces that are traditionally planned for gathering, is key. Here are three ways to cater to travelers’ changing priorities this summer.

Spruce up workcation accommodation

In response to the massive shift toward remote employment, people can now work from the destination of their choice—and many of them choose to bring Fido or Fluffy along for the stay. Pet-friendly searches account for 48 percent of all VacationRenter searches, so opening your doors to four-legged friends might pay off.

As our data also shows that people are booking entire houses far more than any other lodging category, consider augmenting and highlighting a property’s homey and secure, office-away-from-the-office features. Offering guests a dedicated workspace is vital to attracting this new flock of guests. Don’t make it an after-thought. Consider lighting (preferably ample natural light), strong and secure internet access, views, and a quiet atmosphere. In lieu of massive traditional furniture, consider convertible desks, which provide more elbow room and give guests an option to create their own work location within the room or home.

Prepare for the return of the business traveler

Business travel is on the horizon. And business travelers, who may be hesitant to return to the road, may need reassurance. A lodging property’s cleanliness is a big part of providing that comfort level, of course. VacationRenter searches for enhanced cleaning rose 12 percent between fall 2020 and spring 2021—even as COVID-19 transmission decreased.

Reassurance may also come in the form of cyber-security. Depending on your property’s digital setup, IT upgrades may be worth exploring. If it’s possible to rid a large property of shared ethernet and create room-dedicated Wi-Fi, it’s an investment worth making.

Like the workcation set, these business travelers also require well-thought-out, in-room workspaces. For hotels and resorts with business centers, consider transforming them—as well as common areas—into uncrowded spaces with aesthetically pleasing and functional dividers. After all, business clientele will still need printouts and places to decompress.

Upgrade outdoor spaces

The outdoors are most definitely in. Searches for accommodations with pools onsite rose by 37 percent in 2020 on VacationRenter. Conversely, searches for accommodations with TVs nearly halved in the same time period. Although you may not have the location or budget to break ground on a pool (and you probably shouldn’t abandon TVs entirely), these trends indicate guests’ continued desire to spend time outdoors.

For hotels and resorts, creating spaces for small groups to gather away from others is vital for capturing a demographic that has been trending toward homes, cabins, and villas during the pandemic. Consider sectioning off outdoor spaces, so small groups or families can gather comfortably. Spacing out seating, such as not-so-subtle distancing of lounge chairs or creating premium, cabana-style partitions, is as important as making the space attractive and welcoming.

Again, aesthetics matter. Don’t just tack up plastic dividers. Separate gathering spaces with planters or, perhaps, demarcate a space with artistic or retro window panes. Get creative. For example, swanky deck dining globes at ski hotels proved to be wildly popular this past winter, delivering both a unique experience and ample distancing. In other words, create a photo-worthy space—or, better yet, an innovative guest experience.

Final takeaway: Be sure to feature workcation spaces, enhanced outdoor and indoor environments, and related amenities in images across your marketing platforms. Your property has to rely on photography and videos in order to increase reservations. VacationRenter experienced an 88 percent increase in reservations from 2019 to 2020; the properties that launched to the top of those searches had great images and video assets. In fact, users were 40 percent more likely to proceed from a search page to the booking phase when they interacted with images. So, highlighting that beautiful private desk space or stunning outdoor nook might just be the reason you gain an important reservation this summer.

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