Forrester Research’s Henry Harteveldt told attendees at HEDNA’s Winter Meeting in New Orleans that despite the economic downturn, hotels can thrive in 2009, as online travel purchases will continue to rise
Yes, there are some sobering statistics about travel for fourth quarter 2008 and first quarter 2009, but Harteveldt believes there are brighter aspects that will balance out the picture in the year ahead. On the sober side, one-quarter of all travelers are retirees who are seeing their nest eggs decline in value. That’s one reason why one in four leisure trips in Q4 were canceled. Meanwhile, the drop in the stock market has caused corporate travel to decrease in Q4 2008 and Q1 2009. Harteveldt expects overall travel to decline three per cent from 2008 to 2009. However, he sees the market turning around in 2010.
There are bright opportunities even during these difficult times. Since Americans view travel as a right, they are getting more creative about using points and other bonuses to enable them to continue to travel. Online travel purchases will continue to rise, says Harteveldt. There were 66-million online travel purchases made during 2008. In 2009, it’s expected online buying will reach 68-million purchases. A whopping $26-billion of leisure travel is purchased online and $8-billion of corporate travel is bought online.
Reaping opportunities in the near term means a change in outlook on the part of hotels, he noted. Successful hotels will be merchandizing to travelers, will be creative, and will be willing to take risks. Harteveldt sees GDSs become GMSs or Global Merchandizing Solutions, enabling cross-selling and up-selling to travelers. Viewing all distribution partners as merchandizing partners will open up opportunities.