During the lockdown non-refundable hotel rates pretty much disappeared. Along with airline and car rental suppliers, hotels were hungry for business, so they dropped cancellation and change fees and just about every product across the board was refundable, and in the case of Southwest Airlines, even non-expiring ticket credits became standard.
Well, we’re not in the lockdown mode anymore.
And hotel companies would sorely like to see them return.
So what’s the current market look like? Rikin Wu, the CEO of DidaTravel, a global bedbank with over 23,000 B2B clients such as travel agents and tour operators buying hotel accommodation, told Travel Daily News: “We are seeing two very important trends emerge this year that might have seemed unthinkable until only recently: firstly, non-refundable rates are making a come-back and secondly travelers are starting to book further in advance again…In the January to May 2019 period non-refundable was making up around 59% of our sales but that fell to just 26% in 2021. This year so far we’re seeing that figure at 32% and expect to see it steadily grow. Meanwhile advanced bookings in the 8-30 and 30+ days range in the January to April 2019 period were around 32% and 23% respectively, falling to just 10% and 2% in 2021. This year during those dates we’re seeing those figures back up to 14% and 7% respectively, with 20% and 7% in May – so still well below 2019, but massively up on last year.”
To translate, travelers are booking more in advance again, but we’re still a long way from non-refundable rates making up 59% of hotel income. The market will determine when hotels can get away with selling non-refundable rates as their primary offering again.
But, don’t expect them to not give it the old college try.
Look for more specials, offering bargain rates for bookings that can’t be refunded. Also, watch for the big chains offering coupons good at all their brands as opposed to an actual cash refund. No one wants to be out front when it comes to having non-refundable rates, but they all want to be on that bus.
Count on it.