Travelers’ Accommodation Preferences Shift From Pre-Pandemic Norms

As hotels prepare for the travel industry’s anticipated “summer of all summers,” it is important to assess how the pandemic, which has changed many things within society, has impacted our booking preferences for all types of accommodations, including hotels.

In February 2022, STR surveyed more than 1,300 travelers and asked about the interest levels they had in various accommodation types when traveling for leisure. STR is CoStar’s hospitality analytics firm.

Results from this current survey cement the changes observed in accommodation preference due to the pandemic over the past two years. As has been the case throughout the pandemic, travelers are more interested in self-contained forms of accommodation. In STR’s latest survey, net interest for short-term rentals stood at 16%, which was similar with previous research conducted during the pandemic.

Meanwhile, the comparable figure for hotels sits at 0%. While normally a poor result, zero net interest in this instance actually implies that hotels have largely avoided the negative sentiment garnered by other types of accommodation.

Indeed, other accommodations have fared less well, with all other types of accommodation achieving below-zero net interest results. This signifies that a greater number of people are less interested than more interested in staying in these types of accommodation now compared with before the pandemic. Hostels continue to rank lowest on this metric, highlighting the negative associations with communal accommodation. Camping and motorhomes both dropped in net interest, but this could be due to the survey timings and winter weather.

In a follow-up question, travelers laid out their preferences in terms of the types of hotels that pique their interest more.

Forty percent told us that COVID-19 had not actually changed their preferences in hotel type, showing the stability of a large portion of the traveler market. However, 60% said that compared to two years ago, their preferences in hotels had been altered by the pandemic.

The two hotel types recording the highest boost in interest were smaller hotels [highlighting the social distancing aspect] and full-service hotels, which had a large lead on limited-service hotels. These findings suggest that travelers are looking to get the most out of their travel time and want to experience all that an hotel can offer, rather than just a place to sleep. Additionally, full-service hotels may be well placed to provide the extra services that nearby restaurants, bars and cafés are currently struggling to provide due to ongoing staff shortages.

Branded hotels held a slim margin over independent hotels, and luxury hotels also garnered more interest than economy/budget hotels.

The latest travel and accommodation research show that travelers’ perceptions of accommodation are shifting in terms of their interest in different types of accommodation product. The pandemic has highlighted and intensified a movement toward self-contained accommodation types, while those that cannot provide privacy, such as camping, and hostels are favored less. When hotels themselves are compared, the growth in interest in full-service and smaller-sized hotels shows that customers want an experience when traveling, rather than just a bed and a base.

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