Overall sentiments at the 2022 Hunter Hotel Investment Conference at the Atlanta Marriott Marquis in Atlanta, Georgia, reflected a belief that the event served as a reintroduction to and rise in the return of travel business for the hospitality industry. However, attendees were more optimistic about a surge in leisure travel during the upcoming summer months kickstarted by positive spring break travel trends.
Data backs the sentiments of positivity shared throughout the conference. Nelson Boyce, managing director, travel, at Google, led an opening session presentation, which discussed three areas Google users have been searching for within the travel industry, as well as attributes they search for when planning a trip. Throughout the presentation, Boyce shared the possibility of implementing strategies to embrace the top three search areas through embracing digital transformation. Boyce said digital transformation “should be a process that breaks down silos, brings together talent and expertise from across organizations. It relies on shorter, more agile planning to meet a world that changes day by day, and in many cases, hour by hour.”
Implementing strategies that align with a digital transformation will allow hotel companies to embrace the top three areas travelers are searching for through Google. First, Boyce shared that Google’s search data and analytics found that travelers are searching to take a trip related to meaningful life events. He said, “We all know that pent-up demand is a very real thing, and we are seeing strong indicators that people are emerging and starting to plan those major life moments that were put on hold. We know that over half of Americans surveyed are likely to participate in a life moment over the next two years.” He mentioned weddings, achievements in education, job movement, and home movement are the top meaningful events related to travel, according to Google’s data. He added that hotels can “absolutely create a great customer experience as part of these moments.”
Boyce also included “the notion and idea that travel will be more inclusive.” He explained, “The good news is we’re at a point where consumers are speaking up, demanding change, and, finally, our industry is listening and taking it to heart. We are seeing an increased focus emerging from the pandemic to travelers of color. We know that they tend to value cultural engagement as the key deciding factor among destinations.”
Inclusive travel isn’t just about a brand or company’s marketing and messaging, according to Boyce; it’s about the people who are sharing that message, like travel influencers and personalities who potential guests have a connection with via social media. He added, “Knowing this, when it comes to your marketing messaging, your brand, and even what your brand stands for—what it champions—inclusion is going to continue to be increasingly key. Who is sharing your message? People are as important as your message is.”
Lastly, Boyce mentioned, “travelers are becoming more aware of their impact on the planet, making more conscious decisions…As such, travel needs to be more sustainable. Environmental considerations are important to potential travelers.” In addition, many travelers are specifically searching for how travel companies are lowering their carbon footprints before booking a hotel stay or travel arrangements with that company. “Data insights can play a key role here,” Boyce said.
The three data insights Boyce shared show how hoteliers can target evolving consumer needs by implementing data to carry hotels throughout the recovery period. As travel surges in the coming summer months, hoteliers will have ample opportunities to implement best practices for important moments, inclusivity, and sustainability, ultimately enhancing guest experience and accelerating the industry’s recovery.