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US travelers head to hotels at Thanksgiving


Pent-up travel demand was set to be released this holiday season, with more than half of Americans (59%) planning to stay away from home for at least one night before the end of the year.


Hotels will benefit from the return to travel, accounting for more than half (55%) of all trip accommodations and nearly two thirds (62%) of paid accommodations. 

Matthew Petrie, President of BVA BDRC Americas, said: “As one would expect at this time of year, leisure rather than business travel is the focus of travelers’ intent, with the pandemic meaning that many people have previously been unable to enjoy the festive season with their loved ones.

“Despite the break from travel, Thanksgiving hotel guests remain brand loyal.  Overall, nearly two thirds (61%) of hotel guests say they try to stay at their favorite brands whenever possible, while only about a third say they have no hotel brand preference.”

In total, around one third (32%) of those asked planned to travel during the holiday season, followed by one-quarter (25%) who expect to go on a vacation/leisure trip before the end for the year. 

Looking specifically at Thanksgiving, 20% planned to travel for the holiday, with nearly a third (30%) of Gen Z and one quarter (26%) of Millennials travelling away from their home for at least one night.  Boomers, perhaps limited by concerns over Covid-19, were the least likely to travel during the Thanksgiving holiday or any occasion through the end of the year. 

Once away, the average Thanksgiving traveler will be spending 3.4 nights on their trip, with Millennials traveling for the shortest period (2.9 nights) and Boomers the longest (4.2 nights).

Hotel alternatives like Airbnb captured little more than one in 10 paid accommodations for Thanksgiving 2021 and, because the platform is more geographically diverse than hotels, will provide more guest accommodation in rural beach/coastal areas compared to hotels.

In line with previous years, the car was the favored mode of transport, with 69% of travelers, with one third (34%) of Thanksgiving travelers planning to fly to their destinations.  Many Thanksgiving travelers will be using an OTA (Online Travel Agent) to plan their trip.  More than a third of travelers (42%), will use an OTA to find a hotel.

Direct booking via a hotel website (41%) or phone (16%) held steady through the pandemic, but so too did the one quarter (25%) of hotel guests preferring to book their hotel through an OTA.

For those staying in a hotel this Thanksgiving holiday, brand preference was most clear in the budget/ economy tier, with Holiday Inn Express capturing the largest (67%) share of consideration.  The mid-market tier was more closely contested while Upscale was dominated by Hilton (61%) and Marriott (52%).  Hyatt Regency and Four Seasons were tied for the first spot among the luxury tier.

Petrie added: “While travelers showed an enduring loyalty to hotel brands, this was uneven across hotel tiers.  Luxury and budget/economy hotel guests reported the highest share of loyalty, while nearly half of mid-market and upscale guests have no brand preference.

“This can be attributed to consistency across the brands, which is stronger in the budget and economy sectors and where value is a key driver of bookings - loyalty discounts are more successful in these segments.”

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