People are booking their Christmas holidays earlier than ever

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What a difference a year can make.

Last September, the travel industry suffered from a shortage of bookings for Christmas. In September, some hotels are already full for the end of year celebrations.

People are booking their Christmas holidays earlier this year, despite a worrying increase in Covid-19 infections caused by the highly contagious delta variant.

The reason, said Tim White, founder of travel website Milepro.com, has everything to do with vaccines.

“As soon as … people got vaccinated – boom! – they booked their end-of-year activities,” he said. White said spring brought a “huge spike” in vacation bookings at big hotel chains like Hilton and Marriott.

The fear of missing out is very real right now.

James cole

partner, Ohana Real Estate Investors

But it’s not just that booking rates exceed last year’s lackluster numbers. Many companies are now reporting far more vacation travel bookings than they have before the pandemic.

“People are stubborn… and I say that in an admiring manner,” said Carolyn Corda, chief marketing officer for travel marketing firm Adara. She told TBEN that an increase in Covid infections over the summer had not caused a dramatic drop in travel bookings, which could indicate that leisure travelers are no longer inclined to cancel trips on Covid.

Reservations “earlier than ever”

Mohonk Mountain House, a resort in New York’s Hudson Valley, launched its vacation campaign on July 6 – the first the hotel has ever made in 152 years of operation.

December bookings by vacationers are up 60% in Mohonk from the past three years, according to the hotel.

Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, released its Christmas program of holiday music, crafts and ice skating in July.

Courtesy of Mohonk Mountain House

“Travelers are booking vacations earlier than ever,” said Alisha Kapur, senior travel manager for web analytics company Similarweb.

Internet search queries for December trips were five times higher in August than last year, she said, adding that American travelers were mainly traveling within the country this Christmas.

And the first destination is …

California, the Caribbean and other hot-weather locations are popular for Christmas travel this year, but Hawaii is the most requested destination by American travelers, according to Similarweb.

MM Sweet | instant | Getty Images

Interest in Hawaii has slowed after Governor David Ige urged tourists to stay away from the islands last month, according to data from travel booking site VacationRenter. However, vacation bookings there “skyrocketed” last weekend, said Zander Buteux, the company’s organic growth manager.

“Bookings for Hawaii increased 100% over the Labor Day weekend – even with a potential foreclosure on the horizon,” he said.

Americans also used the three-day weekend to book year-end trips to other national destinations, Buteux said, including Gatlinburg, Tennessee; Lake Tahoe, Utah; Breckenridge and Vail, Colorado; and Miami and Key West in Florida.

A representative from the Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa in Florida said more than 90% of its hotel rooms are booked for the December vacation period.

The Palm Beach Marriott Singer Island Beach Resort & Spa in Florida is nearly full for the Christmas vacation, according to the hotel.

Courtesy of Discover The Palm Beaches

Summer destinations, such as the Outer Banks of North Carolina, are seeing an increase in vacation bookings.

“Although the Outer Banks have historically been a summer destination, we continue to see increased demand for the 2021 holiday season,” said Ross Twiddy, CEO of Twiddy & Company, an area vacation rental company.

In August, bookings were up 165% for the Christmas and New Years periods compared to the 2017-19 averages, according to the company. The lack of vacation homes left in December prompted the rental company to post a notice on its website homepage which reads: “2021 is almost full… booking in advance for 2022 is highly recommended. recommended. “

Luxury bookings go fast

December bookings at high-end hotels, like the Waldorf Astoria Monarch Beach in Dana Point, Calif., Will likely sell out earlier than in 2019, according to owner Ohana Real Estate Investors.

Courtesy of Ohana Real Estate Investors

Ohana’s partner James Cole said he believes luxury hotels book faster because wealthy travelers want to see family and friends and have something to look forward to at the end of the year. He said more people are spending more on travel now, especially during the holiday season. Finally, psychological factors are probably at play.

“I think travelers talk with their neighbors and realize [they] have holiday plans already booked for Christmas, “he said.” The fear of missing out is very real right now. “

Prepare to pay more

Procrastinating travelers can expect to pay more if they wait to book, Cole said.

Lower room categories sell first, he said. And while cancellations are happening “on a daily basis” now, rooms can be vacated at higher prices closer to the holiday period, he said.

Contrary to popular belief, hotels don’t want to sell out early, said Cole, who added that they would rather have rooms available for those “willing to pay a significant amount more.”

Matt Clayden, private client manager at UK travel agency Intrigue Travel, sees similar price increases in Europe.

Many people in the UK opt to stay in five star hotels in London rather than travel abroad this Christmas.

Andrew Holt | The image bank | Getty Images

“Customers expect incredible deals and offers from hotels and airlines, but in reality it’s just the opposite,” he said. “Flights and hotels are so busy right now that it’s mostly the superior rooms and the superior booking classes available.”

People stay in the UK this Christmas, or go to Barbados or Antigua in the Caribbean, the Maldives or Dubai, Clayden said. As in the United States, many hotels are fully booked for the Christmas season.

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Booking site Priceline estimates average daily hotel rates are up 14% from the 2019 holiday season. But Milepro’s White said he believes online travel websites could push prices up.

He told TBEN that during a weather-related power outage this summer, he called a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, but was told the hotel was full. He quickly found an open room at the same hotel on a popular booking site. The price – $ 2,000 a night.

Vacation homes go higher

Vacation home rates are on the rise, according to home rental management software company Guesty.

Home rental rates on websites like Airbnb, Vrbo, Expedia and TripAdvisor can be up to 82% higher than they were in 2019, according to the company.

“Christmas is expected to be the most expensive holiday time in the United States this year,” said Guesty COO and Chairman Vered Raviv Schwarz.

Travelers want options that aren’t “traditional overcrowded hotels,” she said, adding that early bookings lower inventory, pushing up rates even further.

“We continue to see increased demand for the 2021 holiday season,” said Ross Twiddy, CEO of the Outer Banks vacation home rental company, Twiddy & Company.

DoxaDigital | iStock | Getty Images

Unlike hotels, Schwarz is not convinced that house rental prices will increase as Christmas approaches.

“Booking limited inventory may coincide with vacations affected by flu season and the delta variant,” she said. “I guess we’ll see prices go up and down depending on these factors.”

According to VacationRenter, increases in house prices and house rentals are not happening uniformly in all markets, however. Data from the website shows that while winter rates are up in places like California, Colorado, and Hawaii, they’ve fallen slightly in Tennessee and Florida.

Reservation in 2022

Several of the sources TBEN spoke to for this article said bookings went well beyond Christmas.

Travelers are “planning well for the next year,” Similarweb’s Kapur said. “There have already been twice as many travel searches in 2022 this year as there were searches in 2021 last August.”

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