While much of Europe remains moderately locked down, the U.K. has reopened, led by Scotland where hotel stays have been allowed since April 26.
The impact of the reopening appeared in the hotel performance data almost instantly, as occupancy immediately spiked, reaching 45.1% on a total-room-inventory basis on the first Saturday after lockdown lifted. Demand moderated slightly in the following weeks.
An inkling of the improved performance ahead, however, appeared in forward-looking data weeks before lockdown ended.
Confidence To Book Ahead
Prior to the release of Scotland’s reopening roadmap, hotel bookings seven days out outpaced 28-day bookings, a sign of the short-term, essential-only travel occurring during lockdown. Once the roadmap was published in late March, four-week bookings rose as guests began making plans and booking stays for a post-reopen holiday, and occupancy on the books one week out and four weeks out has soared since Scotland reopened on April 26.
Pickup, or the net change in week-over-week bookings, yielded equally positive results. Cancellations regularly outpaced new bookings during lockdown, as uncertainty about the future caused leisure and business travelers to delay or cancel trips. But pickup is once again net positive and rising each week for both shorter and longer booking windows, suggesting that a clear roadmap gives travelers confidence to plan ahead.
Edinburgh’s occupancy, both on the books and actualized, improved from reopening, but a closer look at occupancy on the books reveals the changing traveler mix that accompanies reopening.
Shifts in Traveler Mix
During lockdown, most forward bookings occurred within seven days of the stay date, suggesting that essential travel, often last-minute by nature, accounted for the majority of bookings. Almost as soon as the roadmap was published, booking windows began to shift, as would-be travelers began booking stays for after the announced end of lockdown.
Rooms booked between 30 and 60 days from stay date have been most popular since late March, a likely sign of leisure travelers needing planning time and awaiting summer weather.
Data for the week ending May 3 reveals more about who is visiting Edinburgh. Rooms booked 14 to 30 days from stay date — after the U.K.’s May 17 reopening — suggest the British are, in fact, coming to Edinburgh.
Although international travel has been allowed since May 17, Edinburgh is unlikely to take much, if any, of a hit from travelers looking for holidays outside the U.K. in the short-term. Only two countries currently on the nation’s green list allow U.K. travelers past their borders, and although the list is expected to be revised every three weeks, the COVID-19 mutation first discovered in India and now prevalent in the U.K. makes it unlikely that other countries will open their borders to Brits in the near future.
If booking windows reveal an end to the essential traveler, segmented occupancy on the books reveals exactly who will replace that guest segment. Across the world, leisure travel has been the first type of demand to return post-lockdown, and Edinburgh is no exception to the trend, with transient travel representing the lion’s share of bookings over the next 90 days.
However, moving into the third and fourth quarters, group bookings start to rise — a sign of confidence from both businesses and event planners in a COVID-19-safe future.
STR provides premium data benchmarking, analytics and marketplace insights for global hospitality sectors. Founded in 1985, STR maintains a presence in 15 countries with a corporate North American headquarters in Hendersonville, Tennessee, an international headquarters in London, and an Asia Pacific headquarters in Singapore. STR was acquired in October 2019 by CoStar Group, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSGP), the leading provider of commercial real estate information, analytics and online marketplaces. For more information, please visit str.com and costargroup.com.