HSMAI Customer Insight: Omicron Surge Disrupts Travel | Longwoods International

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, the dramatic increase in the number of COVID-19 cases driven by the highly infectious Omicron variant is taking its toll on travel intentions and perceptions of health and safety at the start of 2022.

The percentage of travelers planning a trip in the next month has slipped significantly from 23% in October to 15% in January.  Conversely, travelers are planning trips further out as the percentage of those planning trips in six months or later has increased from 19% in October to 23% in the latest survey.

Insights from Longwoods President & CEO Amir Eylon prepared for HSMAI:


Full Report: COVID-19 Travel Sentiment Study – Wave 53: Omicron Surge Disrupts Travel

HSMAI Customer Insight: Uncertainty Over New COVID-19 Variants and Rise in Cases Hits Holiday Travel Plans | Longwoods

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, the emergence of the Omicron variant and the overall rise in COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths across the U.S. has some travelers re-thinking their holiday travel planning. While over a third of travelers are still planning to hit the road in December, about a quarter are delaying trips until after the first of the year. In the results of our 52nd wave of this survey, here are a few key items to note among the insights:

Key Findings:  

  • 27% of American Travelers report postponing some of their trips right now due to Omicron variant!
  • A 5% spike in those American travelers reporting COVID would greatly impact their travels…
  • Financial concerns have inched up 5% in two months…
  • Those changing travel plans due to the pandemic are up 5% in two months…
  • On the bright side, only 10%  of American travellers say they are cancelling trips..
  • 68% of Holiday Season travelers plan to visit friends and relatives, while 60% plan to go shopping.
  • 35% of American travelers have remote work plans within the next 12-24 months. In May 2021 (Wave 38), this figure was 29%.

Insights from Longwoods President & CEO Amir Eylon for HSMAI:

Read the Full Report

Our American Travel Sentiment Tracker will return in the New Year with even more important research and insights as to what travelers are thinking!

The New Hotel Sales Team

The Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International (HSMAI) and Knowland present The New Sales Team, a white paper that discusses how the evolving tactics of hotel sales teams are in turn changing the dynamic between hotel management companies and owner groups. The new sales team is focused on direct selling, fulfills multiple functions across a tiered organization, and does not rely on inbound leads.

Through interviews with industry leaders, the white paper examines how sales teams are moving from an overreliance on inbound leads to a renewed commitment to hunting and data-driven selling, and how this affects the type of data that sales teams, management companies, and ownership groups need and how they use that data.

Access the full white paper on HSMAI’s website.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted the hospitality industry dramatically, decimating revenues, spurring furloughs and layoffs, and creating a level of uncertainty not seen since the Great Recession, sales teams — particularly those within hotel management companies (HMCs) working with owner groups — were already facing challenges before this crisis.

Overly reliant on a strong economy and the resulting abundance of inbound leads, many sales teams had become too large and were not implementing a proactive sales approach. “As sales teams are rebuilt, they are looking much different than pre-pandemic,” said Jeff Bzdawka, CEO of Knowland, a leading provider of data-as-a-service insights on meetings and events for hospitality. “Not only are they smaller, but as they start coming back, it’s not necessarily the same people returning. For example, individuals who may have been very good order takers are not being hired back as salespeople for obvious reasons. There’s a higher-level skill set required today.”

The pandemic has forced a reality check. With necessary personnel cuts based on hotel closures and an extended pause on travel and group for most segments and markets throughout much of 2020 and 2021, properties simply haven’t had enough business to support previously sized sales teams. Within individual properties that may have been operating fairly autonomously, there is now greater HMC oversight.

“We’re really challenging our teams to be creative and find efficiencies to take on more responsibilities,” said Sunny Brewer, senior director of revenue management for Ashford Inc., which provides advisory management services to two publicly traded REITs, Ashford Trust and Braemar Hotels & Resorts, and also includes property management company Remington Hotels. “We’re partnering with our managers to ensure, and develop to an extent, strategies both in the short and long term, and then making sure that they’re pulled through at a tactical level within each hotel.”

To do so, teams need to be able to get granular with the data they are parsing to source the business they want — groups that don’t have restrictions on meetings and are booking corporate events, for instance. “The data has to be very tailored to the audience and customer segment that is a good fit for the hotel and that market,” Brewer said.

HSMAI Customer Insight: Traveler Confidence Improving As The Delta Variant Recedes | Longwoods

The changing colors of the autumn leaves appear to coincide with a significant, positive turn in Travel Sentiment! As the reports grow of the delta variant’s decrease in cases, its impact on key Travel Sentiment Indicators is fading, taking them close to levels not seen since earlier in the summer, reports Longwoods International President & CEO Amir Eylon. Here are his insights into the findings prepared for HSMAI:

Full Report:

HSMAI Customer Insight: Traveler Confidence Improving As The Delta Variant Recedes | Longwoods

The changing colors of the autumn leaves appear to coincide with a significant, positive turn in Travel Sentiment! As the reports grow of the delta variant’s decrease in cases, its impact on key Travel Sentiment Indicators is fading, taking them close to levels not seen since earlier in the summer, reports Longwoods International President & CEO Amir Eylon. Here are his insights into the findings prepared for HSMAI:

Full Report:

Best Practices for Your Hotel Website Content

By Dan Wacksman, CHDM, CRME, CHBA, founder of Sassato LLC, and Holly Zoba, CHDM, founder of Scout Simply

With the pandemic only underscoring the importance of an attractive, engaging hotel website, it’s a good time to remind yourself of some of the basics — such as good content. Content should be written, first and foremost, with the customer in mind. The hotel should be positioned appropriately with the top-selling features and informative descriptions of the hotel and its services. What you write matters as much as any keywords you use.

You and your brand may have invested a lot of time, effort, and budget into driving traffic to your website. Now that you have a possible customer on your website, it’s time to effectively market to them and convince them that your hotel is the best choice for their trip.

Search engine optimization (SEO) is extremely important for your hotel website and will have an impact on your textual content and metadata. Therefore, striking a strong balance between the use of content for marketing and SEO is very important.

When creating content, it is also important to understand why the customer is considering your hotel and, thus, how you should market to them. There are significant differences, for example, between a city center hotel, an airport hotel, and a resort hotel. Each has a different audience, a different reason for “being” (trip purpose), and various amenities and services. Your content should best relate to those differences and speak in the appropriate “voice,” allowing visitors to quickly understand who and what you are — and what impression you wish to give of your hotel.

Make sure your website reflects the reasons why consumers travel to you or your area. One way to approach this is to think of your website in terms of how a director of sales (DOS) markets the hotel. Does your website reflect the demand generators that bring customers to your area? Are you appropriately featuring proximity to local attractions, amusement parks, stadiums, etc.? Are you a venue for weddings, family reunions, etc.?

Conduct an annual update of customer segmentation optimization to fully address all key segments, from meeting and group planners to corporate and leisure travelers, social event planners, and family travel planners.


As you write copy, keep in mind that web copy is very different than print copy. Web copy is “scanned” or glanced through, not “read” in the traditional sense. This is even more true on mobile platforms, which have become the leading source of online traffic and where visitors have much shorter attention spans. Most consumers will not read your website content word for word but look for appropriate keywords or phrases.

Ensure that all text relays important features and selling points quickly and upfront. Avoid

long lists and overly promotional content that visitors won’t read. Content should be easily scannable, and paragraphs and sentences kept short and concise so visitors can find what they’re looking for quickly.

Your most important points should always come first, whether written in paragraph format, bulleted lists, or icons (for branded hotels, the formatting is typically pre-determined at the brand-level template).

It is best to avoid needless repetition, jargon, and unnecessary words in your copy — keep it as simple as possible. Effective online copywriting is an art, so some properties will hire professional copywriters or vendors to handle this area for them. Check first with your brand to see if they have any internal services or vendor recommendations.


The “freshness” of your content is extremely important, from both marketing and SEO perspectives. All content areas should be up-to-date and include the latest information on the hotel itself, new services and amenities, and the most recent local area content. Not only is this important from a consumer perspective, but it is also extremely important from an SEO perspective. Google and other search engines weigh the “freshness” of content in their ranking algorithms.

All promotional or event dates should be constantly updated (e.g., is your website still promoting a New Year’s Eve event in February?). For SEO, it can be important to keep the addition of new content at a steady pace, keeping your site dynamic and continuously offering fresh content when and where possible. Consider updating key pages (those pages with the highest visitor view rates) at least once or twice a year. For sites that include customer reviews, the constant addition of reviews helps in this area as it is technically new content.

It is important to have proper room descriptions as these will help drive conversion and  upselling efforts around premium room types.

In summary, is your website offering what your potential customers are looking for? Is it current? Can they find it quickly?

Excerpted from Hospitality Digital Marketing Essentials: A Field Guide for Navigating Today’s Digital Landscape, Sixth Edition, by Dan Wacksman, CHDM, CRME, CHBA, and Holly Zoba, CHDM — the study guide for the Certified Hospitality Digital Marketer (CHDM) certification – available soon from HSMAI.

HSMAI Customer Insight: Delta Variant Setting Off Alarm Bells for Travel Industry | Longwoods

Turning the corner into the latter part of the summer travel season, we see the delta variant having a significant impact on several key Travel Sentiment Indicators and taking us back to levels not seen since April, reports Longwoods International CEO Amir Eylon. See more of his analysis for HSMAI of their latest customer research:


Read the Full Report:

With Hospitality Demand Returning, Research From HSMAI and ZS Points the Way Forward

HSMAI and ZS recently interviewed sales leaders at leading hospitality companies from around the world. While COVID-19 presented unparalleled challenges, they said it also pushed them to truly think outside the box and adopt novel strategies and approaches they can leverage in the future as travel returns to pre-pandemic levels.

The key takeaways? Hospitality companies that remain flexible, keep their sales and support teams agile and maintain cross-functional collaboration best position themselves for success. They also must continue to lead with the empathy, transparency and frequent communication with their customers and employees that kept these communities connected during the crisis.

Read more about the findings in this ZS blog post: Hospitality demand is returning: Now what?

“The candid and unique perspectives that the heads of sales at 16 of the largest global hospitality brands shared with us provided fascinating insights into not only how their organizations navigated through the pandemic,” said Kunal Shah, associate principal at ZS, “but also how they plan to stay agile and adapt as the business travel landscape continues to morph going forward.”

Hospitality company leaders learned a lot about travelers and their teams as they navigated COVID-19. How well they retain that knowledge and evolve their ways of working—rather than rebuilding what existed before—will prove to be critical and a key differentiator. When the next inevitable industry crisis emerges, these ways of working will help weather that storm, too.

“HSMAI was delighted to collaborate with ZS for this unique assessment of the impact of the hospitality crises on the hotel sales enterprises,” said Bob Gilbert, president & CEO at HSMAI. “We look forward to additional research that will provide the hospitality industry valuable insights about sales force design, incentive compensation and other motivation practices.”

Learn more about our research on ZS.com.

Fear of Delta Variant Impacting Some Travel Plans

According to the latest Longwoods International tracking study of American travelers, a quarter are postponing travel because of the recent increased spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19. “We may be approaching a new pandemic tipping point, in the battle between the more transmissible Delta variant and the power of vaccinations to prevent or at least lessen the
impact of infections,” said Amir Eylon, President and CEO of Longwoods International, who provides additional insights for HSMAI:

Read the full report: