The latest edition of the Pulse Report, which tracks data for the month of January, shows that despite the ongoing worldwide COVID vaccine roll-outs, the majority of markets are continuing to feel serious effects of uncertainty amongst travelers.
This is particularly true in Europe, where various lockdowns in several countries are having a continued impact on levels of booking activity.
However, on a more positive note, some parts of APAC such as New Zealand, Australia and Oceania are seeing new bookings start to rise, and similarly in the Americas where pick up is finally increasing as travelers dare to think ahead to travel plans for later in the year.
As we take a look at the first full month of 2021, and what the data about that period is telling us compared to December 2020, there is some positivity there. In North America in January there was a 150% increase in new bookings compared to December, perhaps reflecting the ‘New Year’ mindset of travelers as they begin to look at their plans for the year ahead.
However, when we compare the data on a year-on-year basis rather than month-on-month, we see that there is still a long way to go. Comparing January 2020 to January 2021 for the entirety of 2020 and 2021 respectively, we can see that, overall, net new bookings are in fact down by 55%.
For Latin America, including Mexico, there was also a significant increase of 96% in net new bookings made in January 2021 for stays in February, compared to bookings made in December 2020. It will be interesting to watch out for these numbers in the next Pulse Report, as the US CDC order (requiring a negative test result to return to the US) was declared on January 12 and came into effect on January 26. It is thought that this will cause a significant amount of cancelations in February.
Looking at web traffic for the Americas, things aren’t looking great. For North America, we are seeing a concerning trend of declining conversion rates. In January 2021, only 3% of bookings converted. A huge 92% of web shoppers were regrets, and the rest were denials (denied a booking due to restrictions).
It is a similar story in Latin America, where booking conversion rates are also down significantly, with only 1% of bookings converting. Although short-term conversion is more positive for February and March specifically, mostly there appears to be a lot of hesitation to book. This is despite the fact that web traffic was up significantly in January 2021 from December 2020.
Daniel Lofton, Duetto’s Director of Hospitality Solutions for the Americas, commented: “Things have really started to kick up a little bit compared to December 2020, with significantly more bookings being made in North America. Of course, compared to last year it’s still massively depressed, as this time in 2020 we really hadn’t felt any effects of the pandemic in North America. We are also seeing a concerning trend in web traffic - with conversion rates declining to just 3%.
“For Latin America, a milestone date was January 26 when the CDC came into force. This will probably impact February bookings and we’ll most likely see more cancelations than we’re used to. It will certainly be interesting to see what happens!”
Various lockdowns, border controls and travel restrictions across Europe continue to wreak havoc on the region’s travel sector. With COVID cases across EMEA remaining high, pick up continues to be very slow, although January 2021 does show an increase in pace compared to December 2020. After a particularly slow December, most probably due to the Christmas holidays, we can now see an increase in net bookings of 224% and 214% for January 2021 and February 2021 respectively.
In terms of web traffic, the latest data is showing a clear re-emergence of appetite to travel. The stay months of February and March 2021 saw an increase of 85% and 55% respectively in January 2021 compared to December 2020. And interestingly, as it’s hoped that a high proportion of the region will be vaccinated by June or July 2021, there has been an increase in web searches for July, August and September 2021 of 47%, 72%, and 84% respectively, as people clearly begin to look forward to some semblance of normality.
It’s a tale of two sides in APAC this month, with sub-regions such as Oceania, New Zealand and Australia enjoying a significant uptick in new bookings, whilst others such as Central and South East Asia continue to feel the effects of border closures and restrictions. Greater China, however, experienced a modest increase in pick up thanks to the upcoming Lunar New Year holiday on February 12.
In terms of on the books (OTB), APAC as a whole continues to show encouraging data, with the deficits on variances to 2019 and 2020 closing even further. In the last Pulse Report January was at -56% compared to the same time last year (STLY). Within the month, OTB shifted by -2% to finish at -54% compared to STLY.
Taking a look at web traffic we can see that web activity in January 2021 for stays in the next six months increased across most of APAC compared to December 2020. A combination of vaccination roll-outs and the Lunar New Year for Greater China has boosted people’s interest in travel again.
Tasneem Mukadam, Director of Customer Success, APAC, commented: “With the Lunar New Year approaching, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens as this has historically been a really busy period for hotels in the Greater China region and parts of South East Asia. It will be interesting to compare this year to last, when there were already a few restrictions in place, and then to 2019, where there were no restrictions at all.
With the latest Pulse Report I’ve been really struck by the prominent differences between the regions. China, Oceania, Australia and New Zealand are seeing a real upward trend in bookings and web shopping. But Central and South East Asia still have a lot of border closures in place as well as some inter-state restrictions, which has caused a real slowdown in bookings. Intent to travel is still there but there is a definite slow down.”