If you own a hotel, resort, or destination, there’s little doubt that travelers have gotten back out there. At the end of 2022, AAA said that around 112.7 million people traveled at least 50 miles from home. Those numbers are close to pre-pandemic levels. But while people are back out on the road, the ways they travel have evolved from a few years ago.
For one, the time we all spent in lockdown has made us appreciate the finer things more than ever. According to Booking.com, almost half of survey respondents said that they would likely spend more money on their next trip to make up for lost time. In addition, 43% said they were willing to go “all out” when it comes to spending – especially younger travelers.
As for how they spend that money, many of those travelers reported wanting to spend their 2023 vacations “off the grid,” or at least feeling that way. They’re also looking to get out of their comfort zones a little bit.
So whether you’re a DMO or a hotel in a small town, a tucked-away remote destination, an island, or a large city, this is the part of the report you should really be tuning into. Because if you’re not responding to these traveler priorities and preferences, you’re missing out on potential visits to your destination and bookings. Here are some ideas for giving travelers what they want in 2023.
Give Travelers a Feeling of Natural Beauty
Even if you’re in the middle of a bustling city, it’s possible to give your guests a “back to nature” experience. Try filling your inside spaces with outdoor items like plants and hammock chairs, updating your “Do Not Disturb” door hangers with messages like “No service please, we’re getting away from it all today,” or adding electric candles to the rooms for some added ambience.
If your location is already known for its out-of-the-way location, let the world know through smart social media promotion that invites visitors to turn off the world for a few days. And regardless of location or size, promoting your sustainability efforts creates a link to all things natural, unfiltered, and uncomplicated. A 2022 Virtuoso survey found that 74% of travelers were willing to spend more for sustainable travel if they knew how the money was being used for green initiatives.
Own What Makes You Unique
Travelers want to experience something entirely new, and that’s where you come in. It’s time to go big on the things that make you different from everyone else.
If your property is located near a number of adventurous activities, consider putting together sample itineraries for your guests – especially if they’re filled with fun, unique adventures that travelers may not have experienced before.
You can send itineraries via email, promote them on your social channels, integrate them into your website (Barnsley Resort in Adairsville, Georgia, does a great job of this), or build dedicated destination pages that are rife with insights about the status of local events, restaurants, tour operators, and hidden gems (take a look at what we did for the New Hampshire Lakes Region Tourism Association’s Trip Inspiration section as an example).
If you’re known for your cuisine, add some adventurous dishes to the menu that push flavor boundaries. If your decor is unlike any other, turn your Instagram and Pinterest pages into an eye-popping palette of colorful inspiration. If you have special programs for pets or families, let travelers who are bringing their kids (or their fur kids) know that they’ve found their perfect location.
Regardless of your product differentiators, however, a great way to make your property stand out is by being authentic in the way you communicate, from your first top-of-the-funnel contact to the way you bid farewell to your guests as they leave. A lot of properties may say they have excellent customer service and a five-star guest experience, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they deliver. Invest in creating a unique journey from start to finish, because the impression they have of a property when they head home is worth its weight in gold.
Highlight Your Alternative Accommodations
For the past few years, retreats like castles, ranches, cabins, chalets, and cottages have seen big growth when it comes to the types of accommodations travelers are searching for most, and it’s a trend that is expected to continue in 2023. Whether you’re a small hotel or B&B that can be booked in its entirety or a resort property that offers stand-alone lodging, the name of the game is, again, tailoring your hotel marketing strategy and messaging to establish yourself as a dream “off the beaten path” property.
For example, that might mean revisiting your website landing page to show splashy images or video that largely focuses on your collection of stand-alone accommodations, whether cabins, cottages, bungalows, villas, or casitas – much like how Sorrel River Ranch in Moab, Utah, and Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort in Solvang, California, do. Or, if you keep a blog, create posts showing why you’re the perfect place to unplug and promote them via your various email campaigns, social channels, and even your website. We especially like Garden of the Gods Resort & Club’s description as “the ultimate escape where recreation and relaxation reign supreme – and where the distractions of the outside world disappear, bringing the things that matter most clearly into focus.”
Be Ready to Plan Ahead
Over the past few years, an uncertain world has left travelers hesitant to book vacations very far in advance. In 2020, in fact, average bookings were below the 30-day mark. This shift to the spontaneous required hotels and DMOs to sync their marketing materials to reflect near-term events and deals, though trends show that planning is getting back to pre-pandemic cycles.
That same Virtuoso survey found that travel planning is back to an average of 58 days in advance for domestic travel, and 80 days for international travel. For marketers, this means a promotion cycle about two to three months in advance. However, that doesn’t mean some travelers aren’t still hesitant to plan in advance. Be prepared and be flexible for last-minute guests too.
Continue to Promote Health and Safety
As we enter 2023, the world is at various stages of leaving the pandemic behind. It’s important during this time of transition to continue to show concern, but safety measures are now seen as more of an option than a mandate. Advanced cleaning should still be a priority, and consider having a stash of masks on hand for guests who may want them.
It’s also a great time to continue to explore the world of touchless technology. There are technologies available now that allow lobby doors to slide open by holding a phone to a scanner, contactless check-in via a facial recognition software, keyless entry that requires just a press of a button on your phone, elevator sensor panels that know when a finger hovers over a button (without passengers having to actually touch it), and contactless concierges that provide digital travel information (no more paper brochures or maps at the front desk).
As an added bonus, minimal interactions with other humans can also help your travelers feel like they’re all alone, even if they’re in the middle of a big city.