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Destination Travel Trends Booking Pace Lags at Mountain Destinations

chart showing 6 month advance booking pace

photo of the author Tom Foley

 Aug 8, 2022

The Story

The pace of advanced reservations for arrival June 16 through November 30 is down -38.2% versus this same time last year and down -30.3% versus this same time in 2019.

The Deets

Advance bookings for all arrival dates versus 2021 have been down consistently since Dec 31, declining as little as -3.3% in January and as much as -50.1% in April. When compared to pre-pandemic 2019 those declines are less severe – ranging between -1.9% and -30.3% – but have been going on since Nov. 30.

Do We Care?

The declines versus 2021 aren’t really a concern. Booking pace last year was driven by pent-up demand, a lot of banked cash, and the wide circulation of vaccines. It’s not really something we’re worried about. But declines versus 2019 are a different story. The anticipated decline in pent-up demand is now coming to pass, and not a lot earlier than we were predicting.

But conditions today – aside form health and safety – are very different. For the first time since the start of the pandemic, the affluent mountain traveler is feeling a financial pinch, with almost half of their savings from the past 2 years wiped out since January 1. Add in 8.6% inflation, record-high room rates at mountain resorts, and interest rates making credit card purchases less appealing, and the industry needs to consider its options

What’s to be Done?

Destinations have become accustomed to strong, organic demand since January of last year. Hiring challenges mean that many marketing teams include new members that have never had to generate demand in their short careers, and many DMOs have been repurposed to manage visitation rather than invite all comers. The industry should be crafting messaging that focuses on the value proposition, mindful that destinations now face urban, beach, cruise, and international competition.

That message probably includes some degree of discussion or action on record-high rates, though that’s a function of individual suppliers. And lastly, we must adjust our expectations about sustainability as we trade a health-and-safety crisis that hasn’t entirely wrapped up for an economic one that’s likely to be here for a while.

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