Fourth of July travelers seeking social distance-friendly destinations

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Fourth of July travelers seeking social distance-friendly destinations
Photo Credit: Shutterstock

Less populated states like South Dakota, Idaho and Wyoming are seeing relatively high hotel occupancies ahead of the July 4th holiday, as U.S. travelers seek out domestic destinations that allow for social distancing.

According to data from Amadeus' hotel tech arm TravelClick, South Dakota is hovering at around 41.1% occupancy -- the highest statewide hotel occupancy average in the U.S. -- leading up to the 4th of July. Idaho and Wyoming follow closely at 35.3% and 34.1%, respectively.

In Rapid City, S.D., in particular, occupancy had spiked to nearly 60%.

"It's interesting to see markets that I wouldn't necessarily expect to be leading U.S. states in occupancy," said Katie Moro, vice president of data partnerships at TravelClick. "You can start to see how some people are maybe moving away from the beach, which would be a typical summer holiday, to more mountain and rural areas, and maybe camping. There's perhaps a shift in the types of vacations people are taking."

Summer travelers are also proving more likely to make last-minute plans, with Moro calling a short-term, compressed booking window "probably the most important trend" the hospitality industry is seeing nationwide.

"When it comes to that compressed booking window, marketing is critical," said Moro. "And understanding that booking window in order to understand when to market can help drive occupancy, which is going to be key to success for hotels."

Moro added that while hotels are currently more likely to see direct bookings outside of the very near-term zero- to seven-day booking window, within that range, OTAs are seeing a larger piece of the business relative to last year.

"When you get inside that zero- to seven-day booking window, that is when the demand increases," Moro explained. "And so, hotels need to be mindful of the fact that they don't want guests to cancel a booking at X rate and then book a short-term Y rate, which is probably lower."

Traditional beach markets still remain relatively popular in the lead-up to the holiday weekend, with Florida drive-to markets like Destin, Pensacola, Key West and Panama City showing occupancies in the 50% to 70% range.

Other markets seeing relatively solid occupancy above the 40% level for July 4th include Salisbury, Md.; Traverse City, Mich.; Myrtle Beach, S.C.; Norfolk, Va.; Gulfport, Miss.; and Vail, Colo. 

"The demand right now is leisure driven and we believe that it's mostly drive market," said Moro. "And some of these Florida Panhandle markets, and certain areas in Maryland, I think, are typically drive markets, even without taking Covid into consideration."

One major bright spot for the overall hotel industry, meanwhile, is the fact that reservations have continued to well outpace cancellations in recent weeks, with net reservations totaling 2.58 million as of June 14, according to TravelClick. That's in contrast to a net reservations low point on March 15, when 2.5 million reservations were offset by 6.4 million cancellations. 

"We're still seeing cancellations, but it's very positive on the reservation side," said Moro. "There are now so many reservations that we're still doing very well on the net reservation front." 

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