After a few ups, a few downs, spikes in call volume for cancellations, and windows with little call volume at all, things have finally picked back up. And by up, we mean way up. Our reservation contact center service NAVIS RezForce, humbly recorded $21.8 MM in bookings for combined 150 clients in February.
While the new record by itself is impressive, March is already set to outpace it. And peeling back the layers of the data behind the bookings hints at signs of more good things to come.
Quantity and Quality are Finally Teaming Up
Since the onset of COVID – 19, call volume has been up. In many cases, way up. And under normal circumstances that would be a great thing. But as we’ve learned, those spikes in call volume represented throngs of people asking about how they might cancel a trip versus book one. However, recent data indicates the tables are turning.
Speaking with NAVIS Vice President of Contact Center Operations, Matt Juarez, these calls are highly qualified calls. People aren’t calling with questions for cancellation requests. They’re ready to book. “As soon as the inauguration was finalized in late January, we started to see a little bit of a turn. And then, suddenly, by mid-February revenue shot up 81% compared to February of last year.”
The higher revenue wasn’t just due to bigger bookings, call volume was up as well. “It was a combination of both the quantity and the quality of calls coming in,” said Juarez. In fact, call volume for February was up 40-50% over the same period last year.
You’ve likely heard the term “Revenge Travel.” This catchy term for pent-up travel demand is a real thing. (For more on Revenge Travel check out our guide Revenge Travel on The Rise.)
Should We Drive or Fly?
With the return of confidence to air travel still in limbo, much of our targeting focus has turned to the drive market. In fact, we recently released a guide “The Ultimate Playbook to Capturing the Drive Market,” focusing on this trend and ways to target your drive markets.
Interestingly, though, the NAVIS RezForce data shows bookings aren’t coming entirely from drive markets. “We saw a big slice of our Miami clients receiving bookings from New York, indicating that people were willing to hop on a plane for a vacation.”
While this may not be a full-fledged return of air travel or a suggestion to shift your targeting strategies – this could be a clear indication that travelers are more willing to (or comfortable with) the notion of flying than anticipated.
What About the Booking Window?
Early reports indicated travelers were pushing their booking windows out in hopes of enjoying their vacation in a post-pandemic world. But according to NAVIS RezForce Contact Center Director, Josh Guthrie, it appeared patience may have run out. “With COVIVD, we expected to see booking windows much farther out, but the mean booking window in February was just 26 days.”
Many people were booking for Spring Break. “We expected to see bookings for later in summer, perhaps after most people were vaccinated, but it turns out, only about 10% of bookings were for June-Aug check-ins,” said Guthrie. Compared to this time last year, average booking windows were between 50 and 60 days. And nearly 20% for Jun-Aug.
So, Are You Ready for the Summer?
As we head towards summer, bookings continue to surge. And with shorter booking windows there is an abundance of inventory available for the summer. The NAVIS RezForce booking data is a strong sign that travel is ready to get off the bench and back in the game — and potentially in a very big way. And after a year of cutbacks, layoffs, and furloughs, now is the time to fortify for the travel onslaught to come.
“This data paints a clear picture that a travel resurgence is imminent,” said NAVIS Chief Revenue Officer, Mark Bartlett. “We’re strongly encouraging our clients to staff up now to get ahead of what could be a big, big summer.”
As March wraps up with call center booking revenue on pace to surpass February, and shorter booking windows leave summer left with plenty of inventory, this could very well be the perfect storm we’ve all been waiting for.