If we were to ask you what word described 2020 and 2021, the term “unprecedented” might come to mind. In the past 24 months, after all, we have been reprimanded for mentioning the “Unprecedented times” and “the new normal” which followed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic after making headlines in early 2020.
Now, as the hospitality industry (and the world in general) enters a period of temporary recovery, we find ourselves breathing a collective sigh of relief – but not without noticing another potential threat on the horizon. In recent months, experts around the world have raised concerns about emerging variants of COVID-19. More recently, the Omicron variant made headlines after it was first reported by South Africa on November 24. New data suggests the variant was also found in the Netherlands from samples taken between November 19 and 23, meaning it was likely in Europe before it was in Africa.
While there is still a lot to learn about the Omicron variant, the headlines have been flooded with mentions of its highly transmissible nature, as well as questions regarding the vaccine’s effectiveness in the face of this new threat. What does this mean for our long-awaited return to normalcy? Could this variant derail the path of recovery on which the hard-hit industries, such as the hotel industry, are finally embarking? Could borders close again following new lockdowns? Additionally, if historical trends have been bypassed by the COVID-19 pandemic, how can hotels and airlines take the pulse of reservation requests and anticipate the impact of this latest variant on travel demand?
What does the Omicron variant mean for vacation travel?
Fortunately, the technology required to gain insight into travel demand at a hyper-local and urban level exists – taking shape as Gain rate AI-powered SaaS solution called Demand.AI, which allows hoteliers and travel professionals to identify a demand index for cities ranked from 0 to 100. Thanks to this new platform, we were able to derive essential predictions regarding the emergence of the Omicron variant.
This index illustrates the evolution of demand over 75 days and also reveals the type of demand that would be arriving in the city, popular booking patterns and its impact on hotel and vacation rental bookings. The easy-to-use platform also allows hotels to track demand for each locality in the city, using a map view or tabular view to compare which locality in each city will experience the highest demand.
Perhaps the most important takeaway is that while Omicron appears to have created a “small spike” in travel demand immediately, future demand does not appear to be affected in many areas.
When we look at major cities and travel destinations like New York, we find that even in the midst of a gradual increase in cases and reports regarding the Omicron variant, the demand index shows strong and stable demand up to early next year. Specifically, if we look at the end of November in New York, the demand index was at 71.71 (out of 100), and now, if we move quickly to early January, we see a demand index of 71.54. . With this data, we can determine that the Omicron variant had little or no impact on vacation demand.
In many cases, areas that have not yet detected an Omicron case, such as Las Vegas, see potential travelers still waiting for more information about the variant; however, an increase in demand is expected over the next 90 days.
However, when we take a look at some cities in the United States, especially those that have reported cases of the Omicron variant, there appears to be a drop in demand in the short term after Omicron’s announcement. In Savannah, Georgia, this trend is showing, but January and February appear to have a steady increase in demand due to the holiday season. For hoteliers and travel professionals, this is good news. While we can expect slight fluctuations in demand as news about the new variant continues to emerge, it seems unlikely that travel demand will stop as it did earlier this year, in awaiting specific response measures from the State.
The right way to attract future demand
Where does the demand for travel come from? What has an impact on fluctuations in this demand? It is precisely this line of questioning (and the associated data) that should inform the way (s) that hotels and travel brands are allocating their marketing investments both now and in the future. Using billions of data points on user searches, hotel and airline transactions and prices, car rentals, vacation rentals, and other forward-looking demand metrics such as new variants COVID-19, active COVID cases, vaccination numbers, blockages / Restrictions news, etc. Demand.AI from RateGain opens up a world of actionable data-driven information. Naturally, in an age where historical context and trends are often rendered irrelevant by global events, it’s more important than ever for hoteliers to leverage intuitive forecasting data to optimize their strategy and protect their bottom line.
Hoteliers, in this new normal, predicting future demand is more complex than ever – so why not give yourself the necessary tool (s) to gain clarity? RateGain’s Demand.AI platform uses forward-looking and real-time metrics to transform the hospitality forecasting process to better predict occupancy, bookings and peak demand periods. The future need not be a mystery – connecting to the power of AI will reveal real-time demand-side information that will help all travel-related businesses recover from the pandemic and be successful in the long term.
RateGain is a global provider of SaaS solutions for the hospitality and travel industry, delivering travel and hospitality solutions that generate new revenue every day. We are one of the world’s largest data point aggregators for the hospitality and travel industry (Source: Phocuswright Report). For more information, visit www.rategain.com.