Last-minute hotel bookings are no passing trend. The number of stays booked during the same week as arrival represents a behavioural shift in the way people travel, especially travellers in their 20s and 30s. And it’s in large part our mobile-dependent lifestyle that has spurred this change. Every day, travellers are turning increasingly to their mobile devices to take care of (almost) every aspect of their trip, from researching flights to tagging friends in #wishyouwerehere Facebook posts.
Douglas Quinby, VP of Research for PhocusWright, wrote in his “Just How Large is Last Minute on Mobile?” report that “overall mobile search and booking volume is growing at a torrid pace.” Here’s a statistic to really drive that point home: According to the same report, over 70 percent of hotel bookings made on mobile OTA websites are for last-minute trips.
What does the exponential increase in mobile bookings mean for you, the hotel manager? Well, for starters, it presents a great opportunity to attract extra bookings, especially during the days and weeks just outside of your high season.
The shift towards last-minute travel
Last-minute deals. Travel websites and hotel search apps provide travellers with discounted rates for a variety of accommodations—and mobile devices are making them way more accessible to users. Meaning travellers can put off making their booking arrangements until the 11th hour, and still feel confident that they will find a great rate.
Schedules are up in the air. Back in the day, people would arrange their social engagements and vacations well in advance and stick to them. Not so anymore. Now that we’re so technologically connected to one another, people can postpone making concrete plans and instead play it by ear. What if something else comes up? What if they book too soon and miss out on something better? And so they wait, especially younger adults and couples.
Mobile is convenient. With the power of the Internet at your fingertips, travel arrangements, dinner plans, and banking can be done with a few taps. For hoteliers, this means two things. One: if you can, offer free WiFi connectivity to hotel guests; it’s a big selling point for them. And two: your hotel needs to be findable and bookable on mobile-friendly platforms. Not all hotel websites are “mobile-responsive,” and if yours isn’t, you should take advantage of the hotel metasearch engines and OTAs that offer mobile sites and apps for finding hotels. Most of these sites let you list for free and the exposure is well worth the short amount of time it takes to set up a hotel profile.
Targeting this last-minute travel market
Review your visible rates. Why? Simple: Your rates change with the season, but when was the last time you reviewed the rates that you supply to your booking partners and add to your hotel profiles? Keep these up to date so travellers are seeing accurate rates. Make sure to adjust them according to the season and offer incentives to drive more last-minute bookings.
Update your availability regularly. We said it before: schedules are subject to change. Even the best hotels experience booking changes and cancellations. Issues with visas, passports, health, and family matters can arise. When a booking is made, changed, or cancelled, it should be your first priority to update all of your booking platforms and hotel metasearch profiles to reflect your current availability.
Offer 24-hour reception or express check-in/out. Run your hotel with last-minute travellers in mind; last-minute travellers do things last-minute. This means that at dinnertime they may be searching for a hotel to stay in that same night. If no one from your hotel is there to answer travellers’ queries or check them in, it’s lost business for you. Try to have someone stay at the front desk longer than usual, or have a way to receive booking requests later in the evening. This doesn’t mean that you or your staff have to be stationed at the front desk around the clock, but it would be a good idea to make staff schedules more flexible and to implement tools to deal with bookings quickly and speed up the check-in process.
If you do offer such services, let travellers know. Tell them you welcome last-minute travellers and you’ll be a lot more likely to get their business. They want to know that a 10 p.m. check-in is possible and they want to be able to see your availability on their mobile device.
Get mobile. Market to this demographic by joining it. Try using a smartphone (if you have one; if not, find a friend who does) to look at your competition’s websites. Look at those of various hotel search and booking sites. Then look at your own online presence. Put yourself in the shoes of the last-minute traveller—how do your hotel profiles look on mobile devices? Are they navigable? Inviting? Conducive to last-minute bookings? They need to be in order for you to land all those last-minute travellers, tonight.
Have you noticed an uptick in last-minute travellers at your hotel? Receive booking requests outside of your normal hours? Let us know in the comments below or on Twitter.