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Euroviews. Revenge travel fades away leaving European accommodations with a confidence boost

Tourists and faithful wander in St Peter's Square at the Vatican, 10 July 2023
Tourists and faithful wander in St Peter's Square at the Vatican, 10 July 2023 Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
Copyright AP Photo/Euronews
By Peter Lochbihler, Global Head of Public Affairs, Booking.com
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The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not represent in any way the editorial position of Euronews.

While "revenge travel" has sparked a resurgence in the European accommodation industry, the path ahead is uneven. Supporting smaller businesses is the way to preserve the cultural richness of Europe's hospitality landscape, Peter Lochbihler writes.

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Did you take more leisure trips in 2023 than in any other year you can remember? I know I did. Industry insiders have named this phenomenon "revenge travel," and it truly made some waves.

As the European hospitality industry navigated the summer of 2023, a renewed energy pulsed through vacation spots and undiscovered destinations alike all across Europe.

With the busy travel season about to commence, a survey of over a thousand hoteliers reveals that the accommodation industry is brimming with newfound confidence and optimism.

We are a data-driven company, always hungry for knowledge. To get a deeper understanding of the forces shaping the travel sector, we partnered up with Statista to learn what keeps hoteliers up at night.

In the latest edition of the European Accommodation Barometer, we discovered that hoteliers express high hopes for the coming travel season at an astounding ratio of 16 to one: 65% convey positive expectations and only 4% negative.

This stands in stark contrast to what we saw in 2022 when the inaugural edition was published when the ratio of optimism to pessimism for the future stood at two to one.

The resurgence of the bullish sentiment was not, however, evenly felt across the continent. While Nordic and Spanish accommodations reported a strong positive outlook, reflecting in high occupancy and room rate growth, hoteliers in France and Germany gave a tempered response.

This is not to be confused with negative attitudes but rather a cooling of exuberance in comparison with 2023.

This variability is evident across geographies, property types and sizes, and it illustrates the dynamic and often fragmented nature of the travel industry, where no single tourist destination, travel firm, or distribution channel dominates.

Once again, the cheery sentiment among chain hotels surpassed that of independently-run properties. It’s not just about filling rooms but doing so profitably. Chain properties leverage the global footprint of their brand, access to capital, proprietary technology and exclusive loyalty programs to attract guests.

It's all about the small and independent among us

Small and independently-run hotels have no access to the closed systems used by larger chains, which puts them at a disadvantage when arrivals from abroad play an ever-increasing role.

However, accommodations that choose to stay independent can bridge these gaps by partnering with technology firms. In fact, a research paper by a group of leading academics in our industry found that hotels listed on digital platforms enjoy higher overall profitability, and the smaller the property, the more pronounced the positive impact.

Independent accommodations can boost global visibility and offset the lack of brand recognition with verified consumer reviews — which travellers recognise as more important than traditional star ratings.

Independent hoteliers outsource some of their management headaches to connectivity providers, deploy channel management software, and invest in social media marketing to maintain competitiveness.

Accommodations across the EU voiced a wish for targeted interventions, such as lowering VAT for tourism-related services, investing in local infrastructure, and supporting sustainable business practices.
Tourism growth post-COVID pandemic
Tourism growth post-COVID pandemicBooking/Statista

The Accommodation Barometer reveals that smaller establishments, despite their agility and adaptability, are more sensitive to changing consumer behaviour and hold high expectations for government support.

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Accommodations across the EU voiced a wish for targeted interventions, such as lowering VAT for tourism-related services, investing in local infrastructure, and supporting sustainable business practices.

Smaller hotels are more locally connected, and it comes as no surprise that they are clamouring for improvements in public transportation and investments in rural tourism.

It's time for us to work closer together

With rising operational costs and the ongoing impact of climate change, particularly in regions prone to extreme weather conditions, many hospitality SMEs find themselves under pressure.

Proactive government policies that support sustainability initiatives and provide financial relief could make a substantial difference in the survival and growth of these businesses.

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So far, in our research, we find that larger, chain affiliated businesses find government policies more beneficial than the smaller, independently-run hotels.

As stakeholders in the travel industry, we can and should work closer together to nurture a competitive, diverse, and resilient European accommodation sector. By supporting accommodations both large and small, we can preserve the unique cultural fabric of European tourism and promote economic growth.

In conclusion, while "revenge travel" has sparked a resurgence in the European accommodation industry, the path ahead is uneven. Supporting smaller accommodations is the way to preserve the cultural richness of Europe's hospitality landscape.

Peter Lochbihler is Global Head of Public Affairs at Booking.com.

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