November 12, 2021

Direct Hotel Bookings Spike as the US Reopens to International Travel

After two years of travel bans on 33 countries, as well as land border closures to Canada and Mexico, the US has finally reopened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers. With people from EU states, the UK, South Africa, Brazil, China and more finally allowed back into the country to reunite with loved ones and to enjoy long-awaited holidays, airlines are experiencing an upshot of reservations, and hotels can expect the same.

Pre-COVID, international travel to the US was booming, with 70 to 80 million travelers visiting the country from abroad annually and spending a total of $233.5 billion, which made up more than a quarter of American services exports. At the height of the pandemic, the number of travelers sat at less than 20 million, deeply impacting hotels that had long depended on foreign spend.

According to Chekitan Dev, a marketing and management professor at Cornell’s Hotel School, “International visitors are critical to the survival of the U.S. hospitality, travel and tourism industry. Research shows that international visitors typically spend more and stay longer than domestic travelers. […] The new rules permitting vaccinated travelers to enter the U.S. is a much-needed lifeline for revival of the hospitality, travel and tourism industry.”

US-Bound Flights Through the Roof

The travel surge is real: British Airways Flight 1, famously named after the Concorde’s London to New York route, was fully booked for the first passage from Heathrow to JFK following the lift of the travel ban on November 8. Virgin Atlantic’s US flights are currently 98% full, and when the end of the ban was first announced, Skyscanner experienced an 800% booking surge. After a severe lull and for many, a complete halt in reservations, US-based hotels should equip themselves to tap into this new swell of travelers.

Hotel Search Boom

At last, like airlines, US hospitality providers are experiencing an uptick in bookings. The president of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention board noted the surge in searches in a city where foreigners formerly contributed to half of overall spending and made up 25% of overnight stays. The impending holiday season also holds a promising wave of travelers: British Airways Holidays noted a staggering increase in searches for LA, New York, Miami, and Chicago getaways during the holidays, with a 2,000% boost in vacationers searching for Thanksgiving stays, and 900% for Christmas holidays.

Considering this rush of booking searches, amplified by the impending holiday season, hotels should set themselves up for success. Any tools they can harness to reinforce their direct ties to travelers, as well as make themselves more visible, will strengthen their bottom line and make up for the empty rooms of the past year and a half.

"The new rules permitting vaccinated travelers to enter the U.S. is a much-needed lifeline for revival of the hospitality, travel and tourism industry."

Direct Booking Power

Selfbook’s seamless reservation and payment software enables hotels, whether global chains or micro boutiques, to tap into the power of direct bookings, increase revenue, and reap the full benefits of the return to international travel. By empowering them to accept digital wallets, provide a convenient and streamlined booking flow, and tally up all elements of travelers’ stay into a single one-click payment, Selfbook makes it possible for hotels to offer a payment process fit for the future that matches consumers' expectations today.

Last-Minute Reservations

With Selfbook Direct Links, hotels can also reach a far wider pool of international travelers by allowing them to make bookings directly from email campaigns, social media posts, and Instagram stories. As Misty Belles, a spokeswoman for luxury travel agency network Virtuoso, says, travelers are “booking for tomorrow or they’re booking for next year. [They] want to get away, but they’re kind of pushing it to the last minute just to make sure nothing changes.” With Selfbook Direct Links, hotels can tap directly into this new trend and drive last-minute, spontaneous reservations for travelers the world over.

Selfbook’s Direct Links also give hotels the option of customizing the booking links they share. Since international travelers are likely to stay longer, hotels can choose to integrate a promo code for an extended stay directly into a link, for instance, or offer special rates for family travel during the holidays. The options are limitless, and there has never been a better time for hotels to take advantage of direct bookings and the new options Selfbook makes available to them.

Making the Most of the US Travel Surge

Hotels can maximize the benefits of this long-awaited travel boom by ensuring they offer their clientele the most seamless and accessible reservation and payment process to drive direct bookings. With hotel searches on the rise, sharing directly bookable links across platforms and on Google metasearch is a surefire method of increasing visibility among potential guests, while Selfbook's one-click payments heighten conversions.

Selfbook Direct, Payment, and Direct Links work synergistically to empower hotels, making sure they are guests' first booking destination when demand is high. Contact us to schedule a demo and find out more about capturing direct bookings as the US reopens its doors to the world.

By Haley Crawford

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