Phoenix, Arizona, June 1, 2021 / TRAVELINDEX / The 15th annual BWH Hotel Group Travel Summit was held virtually with a panel of top travel industry leaders from AAA, Google and the U.S. Travel Association. The panel discussion, led by Dorothy Dowling, Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer of BWH Hotel Group, focused on traveler sentiment, road and summer travel, as well as trends reshaping the industry’s rebound.
The Return of Travel Following An Unprecedented Year
Dowling was joined by Greg Staley, Senior Vice President of Communications for the U.S. Travel Association; Nelson Boyce, Managing Director of Travel for Google; and Paula Twidale, Senior Vice President of Travel for AAA. The expert panelists highlighted top trends shaping the return of travel and discussed how stimulus checks, savings, and the vaccine rollout have impacted consumer sentiment and pent up travel demand.
During her presentation and the panel discussion, Dowling spoke about how BWH Hotel Group is focusing on remaining agile, boosting consumer confidence, providing value and prioritizing guest loyalty this summer travel season.
“Following a devastating and catastrophic year for travel, I can’t help but express my gratitude for this esteemed group of people and their respective companies,” said Dowling. “Their partnership and invaluable insights have been integral in us understanding the landscape around us and helping us navigate a truly unprecedented time. It’s a pleasure to reconnect with them today, to share and learn from each other as we embark on what is anticipated to be a very exciting time in our industry’s path to recovery.”
Memorial Day Holiday Travel Forecast Shows Strong Summer Travel Demand
Coinciding with this year’s Virtual Travel Summit was the return of AAA’s Memorial Day Holiday Travel Forecast. AAA’s findings predict that 37 million Americans will travel this Memorial Day weekend (May 27-31), a 60% year-over-year increase from the 23 million Americans that traveled during the same time period in 2020. In addition to AAA’s Memorial Day Holiday Travel Forecast, U.S. Travel presented encouraging statistics during Friday’s Virtual Travel Summit taken from a recent Harris Poll:
77% of Americans are planning on traveling this summer (compared to 29% in 2020)
Two-thirds of Americans have a summer trip either already planned (36%) or booked (30%)
With positive consumer sentiment at an all-time high, Best Western Hotels & Resorts is ensuring that it is meeting customers with the heart and empathy they’ve come to expect with the launch of its See You Soon campaign. In speaking about the campaign during the summit, Dowling announced the company’s summer Best Western Rewards® (BWR®) promotion. From May 17 through September 6, 2021, enrolled BWR members will earn a $20 Best Western Travel Card® for each night after they stay, up to $100 or five gift cards.
Dowling also teased the upcoming launch of Best Western Hotels & Resorts’ “Pay With Points” program, which will allow BWR members to monetize their accumulated points and use them towards the cost of a booking.
Loyalty Programs Will Be Reimagined in a Post-Pandemic World
A key topic discussed during the Virtual Travel Summit was loyalty and the evolution of consumer behavior. Data presented by Google showed that 36% of consumers have tried a new brand amid the pandemic, with the top criteria for switching being availability, convenience and value. Of those 36% of consumers, 73% intend to incorporate the new brands into their routine. These trends, which come from McKinsey survey research, show that consumers are switching brands at unprecedented rates and signifies the need for travel loyalty programs to be enhanced and reimagined to connect with consumers post-pandemic.
“At Best Western, we recognize that we have to re-earn most of our customers’ loyalty as they have not been able to participate in our program over the last 13 to 15 months. We are launching our ‘Pay With Points’ program as a way to reengage with them, while also having the understanding that most customers join hotel loyalty programs because they want free nights. 80% of our rewards redemptions are for free nights, so it’s about knowing who our customers are and providing them with the rewards that matter to them most,” added Dowling.
Shifts to Digital Impacting How Travelers Find Destinations, Book Stays
An important trend addressed during the Summit was how consumers are relying more on digital to book their next vacation. According to Google, consumers are looking for help and travel inspiration as they are unsure of where to go, with a popular search query being “where to travel to.” The pandemic led to much higher time spent on digital video and social media: +25% and +16% year-over-year, respectively.
Additionally, the average window for booking flights and hotels with intent has decreased, while the average window for researching, finding inspiration, and taking all necessary COVID-related precautions has increased.
About Best Western Hotels & Resorts
Best Western Hotels & Resorts headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, is a privately held hotel brand within the BWH Hotel GroupSM global network. With 18 brands and approximately 4,700 hotels in over 100 countries and territories worldwide*, BWH Hotel Group suits the needs of developers and guests in every market. Brands include Best Western®, Best Western Plus®, Best Western Premier®, Executive Residency by Best Western®, Vīb®, GLō®, Aiden®, Sadie®, BW Premier Collection® and BW Signature Collection®.
* Numbers are approximate, may fluctuate, and include hotels currently in the development pipeline.
**All Best Western, WorldHotels and SureStay branded hotels are independently owned and operated.