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The Pandemic’s Impact on Travel Habits

Aug 20, 2021   |   Hotel, SEO
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The Pandemic's Impact on Travel Habits

Yes, we’re all very excited about the surge in travelers now. As of late July, we’re now seeing more people pass through TSA Checkpoints than we have since October 2020! Traveling is back – for now – but the rules have changed. People want to find local businesses where they can buy online and pickup in-store (BOPIS). Guests expect hotels to be at the same standards as their last experienced before the pandemic. And travelers are getting younger than ever before.

Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS)

This concept was a game changer for local businesses. In our study of over 500 location-based websites from January 2020 through June 2021, we have seen a dramatic shift in revenue earned from organic and local channels compared to all other marketing channels. Together these channels have driven nearly 70% of website revenue for location-based businesses.

Local and organic traffic share
Milestone research shows Organic and Local Search make up 67% of website revenue.

In fact, local search traffic share has now eclipsed its pre-pandemic levels, rising 52% since January 2020. This makes some sense when you consider the resources required to set up these channels, compared to some more resource-intensive channels like paid media. It also makes sense when you consider why consumers would have made this shift – amongst everything else, they want the convenience to buy online and pick up in stores (BOPIS) which can be seen from the meteoric rise in searches during the pandemic.

local search examples
Google Data from July 29 – September 26, 2020, compared to the previous year

BOPIS is such a critical tool for your customers because it guarantees they’ll get exactly what they want while saving them time. Being able to browse your full inventory, determine what and where the right item is, and quickly pick up on their way to their kids’ little league game can be the make or break for some businesses to earn the sale. While clearly useful for retailers and restaurants, BOPIS is valuable for all industries, even the hospitality industry. To gain incremental revenue, many hoteliers and resort managers are shifting to bring the local market back to their properties using different tactics like offering day rates, dining packages, and cabana rentals.  

Are you providing your customers’ with ways to reserve spa or tee times through your website or app? Is your restaurant using QR codes to let guests order food and drinks on their schedule? Can your hotel guest order room service or housekeeping items without picking up the in-room telephone? Of all the changes from the pandemic, BOPIS is surely one that is here to stay.

local mobile example
Example of local optimized landing page for a restaurant

Managing Online Reviews

As we just mentioned, local search is a significant driver of your website traffic and revenue. And local reviews are considered the most useful content potential guests leverage when making their hotel decisions. Are you encouraging your customers to leave reviews, and are you maintaining a presence online to ensure negative reviews have responses?

Before the pandemic, you might have had protocols in place about who, how, and when to respond to hotel reviews. With all the personnel changes that have occurred, are you keeping up with those steps? With the limited resources you have, it’s critical you employ the right tools to make review management easy to do. At Milestone, we ingest reviews from multiple platforms to make it easy for your team to keep up with the responses.

Milestone reviews reporting
Milestone Reviews make it easy to monitor and manage online reviews.

Not every review needs a response, but when 41% of travel decisions are made in response to reviews, it’s important to restart that initiative now. Again, responding to reviews is critical, but the responses don’t have to be the same, canned responses we had before the pandemic. You might not win back the guest who has already traveled, but your empathic and human response to a bad review might woo the next one. 

Travelers Are Getting Younger

Another change is who is traveling now. Younger people, with their FOMO and their YOLO, are trying to get in on the newest experience that arose from the ashes of the before pandemic times. With 151 million Gen Z-ers in the United States, this audience now represents over half of the US population. And they have over $350 billion in spending power. Yes, the AAA and AARP special offers are still required, but what are you doing to reach the younger traveler? Of course, they want budget-friendly options, but nearly 40% of all Next-Gen Travelers want “new-to-me experiences.” Are you connecting with your local businesses and incorporating all the nearby unique experiences and popup events they have you’re your website content? Are you creating some unique experiences of your own?

new offers and packages that match the era

One of our independent hotel customers in Texas unveiled a glamping package this year that combines the trendy, upscale camping experience in a unique way for their guests. This package gives their customers the chance to take those Insta-worthy photos without the hassle of renting and driving an RV to a remote destination. Combined with the SEO-first technology of the Milestone website, their glamping offer details is one of their top 3 most visible offer pages, it has an average organic rank of position 6 and has received more than 5,200 search impressions this year.

Key Takeaways:

The pandemic has impacted nearly every aspect of life. Some of those changes will hopefully end soon, but there are some we expect to stick around. Embrace these new habits with open arms, digitize your in-store shopping experience, encourage and respond to online reviews, and focus on the next generation of travelers to see long-term digital success.

  1. Nearly 70% of searchers will find your business via Local and Organic Search
  2. 41% of travel decisions are made by reading local business reviews
  3. 40% of all travelers are Gen-Z looking for “new-to-me” experiences

If you want help to create a strategy and manage your digital marketing, we are here to help you succeed. Please send us an email at [email protected] or call us at +1 408 200 2211

Useful Resources:

COVID-19 Crisis, Recovery, Growth: Local Search Strategy

Top Tips to Transform Your Local Search

How to Win in Local Search

Organic & Local Search Drive 70% of Website Traffic

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