Three COVID-19 Era Consumer Trends That Destinations & Hotels Should Be Paying Attention To
This year isn’t turning out the way anyone planned, to say the least. Coronavirus has changed the way people live, work and play. Below, check out three pandemic consumer trends that have exploded in recent months, offering tourism and hospitality industry pros a chance to stay on top of what potential travelers will be looking for in the future.
Pandemic Consumer Trend #1: Biking Gets Big
We’re in the midst of a genuine bike boom. The pandemic has caused people to rediscover their two-wheeled friends, as a source of recreation, exercise and (now that most are staying close to home) an easy way to get around. In March, nationwide sales of bicycles, equipment and repair services nearly doubled year over year. And according to the New York Times, in recent months, sales of commuter and fitness bikes increased 66 percent, leisure bikes went up 121 percent, children’s bikes rose 59 percent and electric bikes jumped 85 percent.
There’s a problem, however. As a result of the pandemic, bike manufacturers, many of them based in Asia haven’t been able to keep up with the increase in demand. Bike stores nationwide are emptying out, with waiting lists filling up fast.
Action Plan: Hotels can satisfy the demand for bike adventures this summer and fall by partnering with local bike rental shops, giving guests a seamless experience from lobby to bike paths. Hotels can also develop guided bike tour programs (partner with a local tour company!) that let guests discover a city on two wheels, accompanied by the property’s own insider guide to the destination. On the DMO side, it’s a great time to improve infrastructure for cyclists. Adding extra bike lanes or even closing streets off to cars makes city biking much more appealing to potential travelers. Take a look at what Mexico City has done for inspiration. Every Sunday from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. several streets (including the famed Paseo de la Reforma) are closed for Ciclovia, a weekly car-free extravaganza that’s been extremely successful and has recently contributed to the expansion of new bikeways in the area.
Pandemic Consumer Trend #2: Hit The Trail (Or The Water)
After several months of being cooped up inside, people are itching to explore the natural world. A recent survey of U.S. consumer sentiment from McKinsey and Company showed that the pandemic has reminded everyone of just how precious time spent in the outdoors is. Off-the-beaten path outdoor experiences will likely be more popular than some of the more marquee destinations. After all, many travelers will be wary of packed places, even when the threat of coronavirus subsides.
Hiking to secluded spots, kayaking or canoeing through little-traveled waterways, snowshoeing on out-of-the-way trails… these and more will be the sought-after adventures during and after the pandemic.
Action Plan: Now is the perfect time to connect with outdoor adventure writers and influencers to highlight a destination’s natural attractions. Taking into account the comfort levels of each member of the media, start putting out feelers for outdoor FAM trips that showcase these activities in an engaging way, while still demonstrating safety and social distancing. Virtual FAM events can work too! With budget travel on the rise, destinations can highlight the ways in which outdoor adventure is an affordable alternative to a luxury vacation. Hotels should also be highlighting easy access and proximity to the outdoors in marketing materials and social media channels.
Pandemic Consumer Trend #3: The Bird Is The Word
As the previous two trends illustrate, people are looking to connect with the outdoors in 2020. As a result, an age-old outdoor adventure is making a BIG comeback. That’s right, birdwatching is hotter than ever. According to the LA Times, downloads of bird-identification apps have spiked, and sales of bird feeders, nesting boxes and birdseed have soared during the pandemic. And the New York Times reported that birders set a world record in May at Global Big Day, an annual bird-spotting event, reporting two million birds observed and 6,479 species recorded.
Clearly, there’s just something about observing our feathered friends that is soothing our souls during these uncertain times. What’s more, experts still recommend social distancing. This often-secluded hobby offers travelers a fun way to explore while remaining safe.
Action Plan: Destinations with robust birding opportunities and attractions should be targeting both seasoned bird nerds and newbie wing nuts. Major annual birding events, such as Nebraska’s Great Crane Migration, have become more and more popular in recent years. In a post-pandemic world, look for a fresh crop of visitors flocking to see these natural spectacles. What if your destination isn’t known for its birding? How about birdies – as in golf? Golf is another outdoor activity that lends itself well to necessary social distancing practices. Additionally, look for other outdoor activities your destination offers. Astrotourism and stargazing in particular are experiencing recent hot streaks, as well.
- Consumers love biking — and they’re going to want to incorporate the activity into future travels.
- Outdoor adventure, especially in secluded areas, is going to get bigger and bigger. For sporting types, golf provides an outdoor experience in a more socially distanced setting.
- Classic hobbies like birdwatching and stargazing have become hot trends in recent months. Travelers are looking to experience natural spectacles on both small and large scales.
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