Sourced from SiteMinder’s guest acquisition platform, used by 35,000 hotels and connected to more than 400 hotel booking channels globally, the World Hotel Index provides data and commentary for hoteliers at both a macro and local scale that’s never been seen before.

For hoteliers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, the World Hotel Index gives you the chance to:

  • Act quickly to the first signs of recovery in your country/region or city
  • Gain more confidence about when you can anticipate demand
  • Be ahead of your competition and put the right plans in place to attract those first guests.

Refreshed daily, the charts show how current booking volumes are changing when compared to the previous year.

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The World Hotel Index shows both the fluidity and suddenness of changing traveller behaviour. Here at HomeForHotels, we’re pleased to have exclusive rights to republish the latest snapshots and analyses, and in this section we share those from SiteMinder’s founder and managing director, Mike Ford.

The growing divide between urban areas and regional towns

19 August 2020

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It’s been five months since COVID-19 became a reality for most of us. In that time, we’ve seen hotel bookings drop to below 9% YoY globally, and then show an encouraging and sustained recovery to surpass 54% YoY in July. At a global level, booking levels have plateaued since, but not in every part of the world. While a lot remains unknown, what is clear is that the new behaviours and preferences of today’s traveller are likely to linger for a while yet, if not become permanent changes for some.

As early as May, we reported on signs that today’s traveller would be seeking an immediate escape from the confines of a building and holidaying, instead, outdoors. Those early signs, detected in the UK, have since come to fruition across the globe as we see more and more travellers opting for a nearby coastal or regional town destination rather than a densely-populated major city.

We see that in:

  • Australia, where YoY booking volumes sit at 22.8% and 4.2% in the country’s most populous cities of Sydney and Melbourne. Yet, they sit at 69.6% in Townsville, a coastal town up north.
  • Thailand, where the booking momentum in the capital city of Bangkok is at 28.1% YoY while it is at 51.8% in the resort island of Ko Samui.
  • The UK, where London’s hotel bookings are at 40.4% of last year’s volumes, while they are at 75.7% in Bristol, a two-and-a-half-hour drive from the capital. 
  • Spain, where YoY booking volumes in the major cities of Madrid and Barcelona are hovering around 26%, while they have surpassed 62.8% in the coastal region of Málaga.
  • The U.S., where New York City has not been able to rise above 14% of 2019 volumes, while Tampa in beach-filled Florida has again exceeded 2019 volumes.
  • Mexico, where the booking momentum in the capital of Mexico City remains below 38%, versus 72% in the coastal resort town of Playa Del Carmen.

We also reported on the rapid rise of last-minute bookings as early as June and, indeed, globally, guest arrivals in August and September now comprise literally half of all non-cancelled hotel bookings made to date. In countries such as Canada, August and September stays comprise almost 90% of all non-cancelled reservations.

Additionally, we continue to see countries progress through the new stages of hotel booking recovery:

  • In Asia, Indonesia has maintained steady growth, led by domestic bookings which have comprised over three quarters of all bookings since April.
  • In Europe, Portugal has enjoyed an acceleration in both domestic and international travel.

These trends mean a few things:

  1. Every traveller today is a transient traveller. Booking lead times have shrunk and, now more than ever, extended stays are harder to secure. Every player within the hospitality and travel industry needs to re-strategise accordingly.
  2. While a number of hotels have done well to reimagine their spaces for corporate guests, the reality is corporate travel will remain under pressure for as long as domestic tourism is the only option, or the safest option. Travel operators need to be thinking about how leisure travel can fill the gap.
  3. Sensible travel bubbles are critical for island destinations. We can see the value of travel bubbles in Costa Rica, where the booking momentum is up over 100% MoM after international travel resumed on 1 August. The country is now open to travellers from Canada, select EU nations and the UK. By contrast, we can see that the Cook Islands and Fiji in the Pacific continue to struggle and could face a humanitarian crisis if international travel is not opened up soon from neighbouring countries such as Australia and New Zealand.

Only South Africa surpassed Costa Rica as this month’s fastest riser. The country’s booking momentum is up almost 300% MoM, after the government lifted nearly all travel restrictions. It’s a bold move from a country that’s reported the fifth highest number of COVID-19 cases in the world, but it stands as testimony to the challenges involved with balancing a health crisis and keeping your economy afloat.

Three weeks ago, we introduced the world to the four stages of hotel booking recovery that we had been witnessing since the outbreak of the pandemic in March. Among those stages was Deceleration or Plateau, which had occurred only within individual countries up until that point. However, we knew the time would come when we would inevitably see a deceleration or plateau at a global level also. That time came this past week, as global hotel bookings dropped marginally for the first time since March, from 52.36% YoY to 51.56% YoY.

While incremental, the drop represents a pivotal moment, as it reminds us about both the seriousness of the coronavirus and the fickle nature of consumer confidence that comes with an ongoing health crisis. The correlation is evident in many countries where cities and states have re-entered travel lockdowns amid new waves of COVID-19 cases.

The United States is perhaps the most visible example of this. After experiencing a six-week growth in hotel bookings, the country has seen COVID-19 cases accelerate in a number of states, including Florida, which was dubbed the next epicentre in mid-June. Since then, Miami’s booking volumes have plummeted from 87% of last year’s levels to 33%, where it has remained for nearly two weeks.

Similarly, Australia’s hotel booking momentum has continued to drop for more than a week, brought down by Melbourne, which is back in a lockdown after a second wave of coronavirus cases exceeded the city’s first peak in March. Melbourne’s booking momentum has dropped almost 75% over the last three weeks.

Within Asia, Hong Kong has imposed tough new restrictions this past week, after a spike in coronavirus cases threatened to undo months of success. The new restrictions have further impacted an already-decreasing volume of hotel bookings, which now sit at 48.23% YoY after hitting a high of 61.77% YoY earlier this month.

Finally, in Europe, the Segrià region of Spain re-entered a partial lockdown on 4 July and, with that, the country’s total volume of hotel bookings have dropped from 62.9% YoY to 58.46% YoY.

Defying the odds is the UK, which ranks as our second-fastest riser for the second consecutive week in spite of Leicester entering a lockdown. Hotel booking volumes in the UK have risen from 31.74% YoY to 48.74% YoY during the last two weeks and, of all bookings made during the period, at least four-in-five have been for stays between now and September.

Only Sweden outpaced the UK this week, experiencing 27.39% growth to reach 72.13% of last year’s levels – and proving the continued success of the Nordics in containing the spread of COVID-19.

In other positive news from the Nordics, Norway’s hotel bookings have now climbed consistently for three months to 92.39% YoY, so we could be speaking soon about the first country to not only reach, but surpass, 2019 levels since March. Ireland and Malaysia, too, aren’t far behind. They now sit at 84.47% YoY and 81% YoY, respectively.

As I write this, a new wave of coronavirus looms for my home city of Sydney, so hotel booking recovery here may have to restart again soon. It’s all a part of the new cycle, and while we don’t know when it will end, we can feel comforted that we’re all a part of an industry that’s proven its strength and resilience like never before.

This past March was a month that many of us are unlikely to ever forget. It seems like yesterday I was watching in disbelief as hotel bookings plummeted from around 50% YoY to below 10% YoY.

Four months on, hoteliers in many pockets of the world can find some comfort that booking volumes have surpassed mid-March levels for the first time. On 2 July, hotel bookings globally tipped over to 50.51% of 2019 levels to mark a key milestone as we all look to bounce back from this crisis together.

As I write this, 14 countries across Europe, Asia and the Pacific now outperform the global average of 52.52% YoY in hotel booking volumes. Norway currently leads the growth, with volumes at 89.13% YoY, followed by Ireland, at 81.33% YoY, and then Malaysia, at 79.56% YoY. All three countries have now remained in the first stage of hotel booking recovery—Domestic Acceleration—for more than a month.

Meanwhile, in the Americas, the United States remains in the stage of Destabilisation and is unlikely to progress to International Acceleration anytime soon. With increasing cases of coronavirus, international arrivals at U.S. hotels now constitute less than 10% of all guest arrivals for the fourth consecutive month as further proof of the value of local holidaymakers in the current climate. Indeed, in Canada, international guest arrivals may be down 80% from last year’s volumes, but hotel bookings have risen steadily over the last six weeks to reach 47.05% YoY, driven by domestic trips.

Without doubt, we are witnessing a surge in domestic travel worldwide, led by South-East Asia. Domestic guest arrivals this month have more than quadrupled (316%) YoY in Cambodia and tripled (202%) in Vietnam. While domestic guest arrivals this month are up 196% YoY in Thailand, the country’s cautious reopening to certain foreigners, including business travellers, could tip the domestic/international balance very soon. Within Europe, domestic guest arrivals this month have more than tripled YoY in Denmark (262%) and Malta (247%).

Speaking of Malta, it’s our fastest riser this week, having jumped from 31.12% YoY to 44.43% YoY, to represent 42.77% WoW growth after it was revealed that active cases of COVID-19 in the country had been reduced to ten.

While previously-lifted pandemic measures have been reinstated in the city of Leicester, they weren’t enough to send the UK to the Deceleration or Plateau stage of hotel booking recovery. The UK is our second fastest riser this week, with hotel booking volumes that rose 24.54% WoW to 39.53% YoY, and the Domestic Acceleration is likely to continue for some time yet.

Other quick risers this past week included Malaysia (21.49% WoW growth), Ireland (18.99% WoW growth) and France, which has continued to climb steadily to 65.78% of last year’s hotel booking volumes. While domestic travellers may be driving the growth, the reopening of France’s borders to countries outside the EU this month has had a positive impact on the domestic and international business mix of local hotels. International tourists currently contribute a third of all hotel guest arrivals in France, but the World Hotel Index tells us that that contribution will grow to more than half (54.9%) by September. Could International Acceleration be around the corner?

It’s hard to believe this is now my 10th weekly analysis of the World Hotel Index – a product initially conceived to help the industry we love, and which has quickly evolved to become the benchmark by which we can all assess the recovery of hotel markets globally.

As we commence the second half of the year, we can see that hotel bookings globally are nearing 50% of 2019 levels, led over the past week by the UK, which has risen over 56% from 20.36% YoY to 31.87% YoY after sitting below 10% for more than three months.

I spoke last week about the four stages of hotel booking recovery, including the first stage of Domestic Acceleration and, indeed, we’re witnessing that now in the UK. Of all guest arrivals over the next six months, 78.69% will be local holidaymakers. As for how quickly those arrivals will come? Based on all bookings made in the last two weeks, 71.48% are scheduled to arrive during this month and August, although, with at least one city re-entering lockdown, we may be looking at different figures this same time next week.

A similar journey is unfolding in Ireland, where hotel bookings have risen 28.95%, from 53.27% YoY to 68.69% YoY. The jump makes Ireland our second-fastest riser this week, behind the UK. Of all guest arrivals this month, 77.22% will be locals, which is nearly 60% more than the makeup of domestic travellers during the same period last year.

In tandem, a number of countries have progressed further along their hotel booking recovery journey, including:

  • At Deceleration or Plateau – Germany, which has stayed above 50% of last year’s levels since 8 June but has been unable to rise above 58% YoY; and Australia, which has hovered around 58% YoY for two weeks, due to a resurgence of coronavirus cases in the state of Victoria. Victoria’s capital, Melbourne, has dropped to 18.12% YoY and is likely to drop further after lockdown was reinstated in the city this week.
  • At Destabilisation – Portugal, which has dropped nearly 10% WoW after nearly two weeks of deceleration; and New Zealand, which has dropped from 76.16% YoY to 71.99% YoY in the last two weeks after being drawn back from COVID-free status.

With the EU’s international borders reopening this week, our data is now showing signs that the fourth stage of recovery⁠—International Acceleration⁠—could be coming for a number of European nations, including Spain, Italy and France. The makeup of international travellers to these countries over the next three months are 47.97%, 62.76% and 44.48%, respectively, compared with 37.66%, 42.76% and 28.09%, respectively, between April and June.

Tourists from countries as far-reaching as Canada and Thailand are now permitted to enter Europe, so it’s surely one part of the world where we can expect change over the coming week, as global hotel bookings (likely) tip past the 50% YoY milestone at long last.

Since the outbreak of the pandemic, what the travel and hospitality industries have wanted to learn most is: how will our industries recover? Only time will tell when the health crisis will end and which travel bubbles may be formed in the meantime. But what we do know through the World Hotel Index is not only the growing desire to travel, but the real intention of doing so. And, it’s through this data that we now know the hotel booking cycle will generally go through four key stages until it returns to a new sense of normal.

Following government announcements on when travel restrictions will lift, the four general stages of the hotel booking cycle are:

  1. Domestic acceleration
    As we’ve reported since April, concrete indicators of lockdowns being lifted are followed by a strong burst of excitement among consumers. That excitement translates into an immediate rise in hotel bookings and, due to the current state of markets, the vast majority are domestic.

    Cases in point are France, Spain, Italy and Canada which have all seen steady rises in hotel bookings nation-wide since gradually reopening their economies. France and Spain overtook the global average this past week, and both now sit at 48% YoY. Of all bookings for this month of June, four-in-five in both countries have been made by locals.

  2. Deceleration or plateau
    While there’s been a renewed interest in domestic trips around the world, it is naturally difficult for domestic travel, alone, to see hotel markets completely return to last year’s levels. The pandemic has impacted the confidence and financial situations of many individuals, forced international borders to close, and put a stop to group bookings. For this reason, the initial excitement among consumers is followed by a deceleration or plateauing of hotel bookings, as we’re currently witnessing in Germany and Ireland where bookings have slowed momentarily for nearly two weeks. Already, we’re witnessing the same in Thailand and hope the Thai Government’s US$720 million domestic tourism stimulus package will go a long way to accelerating recovery.

  3. Destabilisation
    Whether it be due to increased cases in coronavirus, or other political or societal challenges—or perhaps a simple die down in euphoria—our data is illustrating the very real human behaviour of withdrawal. We are seeing this now in markets such as the United States and Mexico, where coronavirus cases are sadly gaining speed. Florida is reported to be the next epicentre for coronavirus and, with that speculation, we can see that hotel bookings in both Miami and Tampa have dropped after rising rapidly and then slowing.

  4. International acceleration
    While we are yet to see this first-hand (and it may be many months before we do), we predict another acceleration, as international borders reopen, will form the final stage in the road to hotel booking recovery.

We’re a week away from many of the (previously) most visited places in the world opening up further in some form. On 1 July, we will see free movement recommence between Portugal and Spain, and between France and countries outside the EU. Commercial airlines will resume in the Maldives, and all businesses will reopen in Australia’s most populous state of New South Wales.

Next Saturday will also mark the reopening of the UK’s hotels, pubs, campsites and holiday cottages. And, already, we can see an increase in booking activity there, with bookings moving from 13.2% of 2019 booking levels to 17.5% over the last week.

So, who knows? Our world is moving faster than ever before. We may be witness to new or upended trends this same time next week.

It’s been said that week-on-week growth is the new year-on-year for revenue managers. Certainly, we are living in a time when it’s become hard to plan ahead more than a few days. I mentioned last week that today’s traveller is a minimalist when it comes to planning, and yet, hotel revenue in many parts of the world remains limited by government-approved headcounts.

No matter which metric is most important to your business today, what we can be sure of is that hotel bookings globally continue to trend upwards, now past 40% of their volume this same time last year.

In mid-May, as governments around the world began loosening travel restrictions, we predicted that many consumers would act to travel again at the soonest possible moment. That prediction was affirmed last week, as we introduced the guest horizon into the World Hotel Index and saw how travellers from countries such as New Zealand and Taiwan had already begun booking stays for this month or next.

That trend has been reaffirmed over the past week, led by Malaysia where nearly all activities have resumed after a three-month lockdown. Malaysians can now travel domestically and, with that freedom, we can see that of all bookings made within the last two weeks, three-in-four are for stays this month and July. Nation-wide, hotel bookings in Malaysia soared from 30.48% YoY to 41.6% YoY this past week to become our fastest riser. However, the continued closure of the country’s international borders may not be great news for hotels around the world. Like Indonesia, Malaysia is not allowing citizens to make the annual pilgrimage to Islam’s two holiest sites, Mecca and Medina, in Saudia Arabia. The restriction begs questions around the state of the multi-billion-dollar religious tourism industry in a post-COVID world, as, without doubt, hotels in countries such as Italy, India, Israel and Nepal, which also attract millions of religious travellers each year, will be impacted.

On the flipside, Thailand is looking at allowing one thousand foreign visitors to enter the country daily, from countries such as Japan, Australia and New Zealand which have done well to contain the coronavirus. Business travellers are among the target group, which is welcome news for local hotels that are currently missing corporate business, and interestingly the World Hotel Index shows us that international travellers form around 80% of all arrivals in Thailand between August and January.

Twelve countries around the world have now taken over the average hotel booking volume globally, including New Zealand, which now sits at 77.48% YoY; the United States, at 58.05%; the Netherlands, at 57.95%; and Ireland, at 45.03% YoY.

By contrast, while other countries in the Pacific are quickly recovering through new domestic trips, Fiji and Vanuatu, which rely almost entirely on international tourism, continue to remain below 8% when it comes to hotel bookings. South Africa and Chile are also still challenged to hit 10% of 2019 hotel booking levels, and although we are starting to see slight movement in the UK, the country’s hotel bookings remain sub 15% YoY.

In one week, both Miami and Tampa in Florida have shot up from 52.55% YoY to 83.32% YoY, and 110.03% YoY to 124.01% YoY, respectively. Similarly, Koh Samui in Thailand rose from 28.99% YoY to 41.11% YoY, indicating perhaps that as we all look to recover from this pandemic, beach time is on the minds of many travellers.

Even as we’ve watched bookings trend upwards over the last six weeks, I know the sentiment felt across the global travel and hospitality industry has remained fairly sombre. Yet, the World Hotel Index is a reminder that the human desire to travel is growing once again, as markets reopen, state by state.

And, as of today, as hotel bookings worldwide surpass a third of last year’s levels, it also tells us that the post-COVID guest isn’t a fabrication. Thanks to new indicators within the World Hotel Index, not only can we see how booking volumes are changing; we can now see when the guests behind those bookings will be arriving and where they will be coming from. And, the current data shows us that the new guest wants to travel soon – as quickly as this month or next.

New Zealand’s Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, said she “did a little dance” this past Monday, as coronavirus cases in the country went from one to zero. She may not have been alone in that celebration. In the last two weeks, hotel bookings in New Zealand have shot up from 52.79% YoY to 72.84% YoY, and we now know through the World Hotel Index that nearly three-in-four of those bookings are for stays during this month and July. Additionally, with the country’s COVID-free status placing more pressure on the formation of a trans-Tasman travel bubble, we’re likely to see international guests make up a greater percentage of arrivals sooner rather than later.

We are seeing a similar trend emerging in Europe where Ireland more than tripled its year-over-year figure this past week, from 12.98% YoY to 43.49% YoY, after it was announced that locals could recommence travelling anywhere in their county. Hotels in Ireland are set to reopen at the end of June, and local holidaymakers aren’t wasting any time. Of all bookings made within the last two weeks, more than 70% are for stays during July and August.

Across continental Europe, the five other fast risers over the past week were:

  • Czech Republic: from 16.64% YoY to 30.86% YoY (85.46% WoW)
  • Sweden: from 22.70% YoY to 41.08% YoY (80.97% WoW)
  • Netherlands: from 33.19% YoY to 51.17% YoY (54.17% WoW)
  • France: from 22.56% YoY to 33.94% YoY (50.44% WoW)
  • Malta: from 12.51% YoY to 18.39% YoY (47.00% WoW).

Alongside the Netherlands, Germany has broken through the halfway barrier, with hotel bookings now sitting at 52.17% of last year’s volumes. With the European Commission calling on member states to lift all border restrictions by the end of June, and several nations—including France and Belgium—announcing the reopening of their borders, we can expect more European nations to follow suit over the coming week.

A number of cities around the world have also passed the halfway point, including Miami in the United States, where hotel bookings have surged to 56.33% of last year’s levels.

Within Asia, Taiwan’s hotel bookings are now almost back to their volumes this same time last year. Taiwan still leads the world in momentum, with bookings at 94.83% YoY. Four-in-five of those bookings are for stays this month and July. Other countries within the region continue to face hardships, including Singapore and the Philippines which remain well below 10% in hotel booking volumes.

The guest journey remains unchanged, but with a new lens into the post-COVID guest, we are wiser for knowing that today’s traveller is a minimalist when it comes to planning. And, for good reason, as we all continue to reflect on how rapidly our world has changed. I encourage all hoteliers to take note. The trend of last-minute bookings is truer now than ever before.

Almost as quickly as we experienced the world shut down because of COVID-19, we are seeing the lights come back on for the critical industries of travel and hospitality, country by country. Globally, the volume of hotel bookings has now edged past a quarter of 2019 levels, to 29.62% YoY. What a difference a week can make.

Indeed, this same time last week, France’s hotel industry was looking at booking volumes at only 11.22% of 2019 levels. That has now almost doubled to 22.36% YoY, making France our fastest riser after a second phase of easing lockdown rules took effect this past week.

We also speculated that Portugal could become the first southern European country to re-emerge from the pandemic after hotel bookings jumped from 7.58% of last year’s levels to 20.89% in two weeks. That steep rise has continued, reaching 28.51% of last year’s levels and making Portugal our second-fastest riser this past week, behind France. Neighbouring Spain—which has endured the fourth-highest number of coronavirus cases in the world—is following a similar trend, with hotel bookings surging from 18.18% of last year’s volumes to 23.38%. 

Other high risers are Australia and Germany, which have grown their hotel bookings from 33.91% to 44.10% YoY, and 32.51% to 40.18% YoY, respectively. In Australia, we may be seeing a newfound interest in travelling away from densely-populated cities, as Newcastle leads the country’s hotel bookings at 71.21% of 2019 levels, followed by Canberra at 47.58% YoY. According to OpenTable, seated diners at restaurants in Germany are up more than 30% from this same time last year, suggesting that locals are content to wine and dine for now. 

Mexico has also accelerated, after the country’s hotels were able to reopen partially Monday. In spite of rising cases of coronavirus, bookings with hotels in the country have risen to over a quarter (25.97%) of last year’s volumes.

Alongside Mexico, Denmark and Vietnam are fast approaching the global average with hotel booking volumes sitting at 26.43% and 25.36% YoY, respectively. Meanwhile, Taiwan continues to lead with hotel bookings now just 10.24% away from reaching last year’s levels.

While Italy’s hotel bookings remain flat at 8.92% of 2019 levels, we may see movement over the coming weeks as the country yesterday opened its doors to British travellers.

When the World Hotel Index launched on 29 April, every hotelier in nearly every corner of the world was confronted by perhaps the only line they wished would curve upwards rather than continue to flatten. The global booking volume at the time was 10.70% of what it was just a year prior, and almost every sign indicated there would be a lack of positive movement for months to come. It seemed inconceivable that 10.70% would more than double four weeks later and yet here we are, cautiously observing a read of 24.49% in global booking momentum… and counting.

Rewind to February: while the world remained mostly oblivious to the impending impact of COVID-19, the alarm bells were being heard clearly in Iceland. The country was already testing for coronavirus—before its first case—and by the end of the month, had declared a state of emergency that triggered aggressive contact-tracing and quarantine. The quick action has been credited for containing the spread of the virus and, in mid-May, Iceland’s prime minister announced plans to reopen the country’s borders to tourists by 15 June. It’s been said that ‘COVID-free’ is the new five-star rating, and the prime minister’s announcement could be evidence of that theory. In the last two weeks, Iceland’s hotel bookings have doubled from 12.85% of 2019 levels to 27.64%, and overtaken the global average.

Only New Zealand surpassed Iceland as the top high riser this past week. Hotel bookings within the Pacific nation have gone from strength-to-strength since lockdown began lifting earlier this month, and now sit at over half (52.59%) of last year’s booking levels. They rose 12.04% in the last week, alone, and will likely accelerate further if plans proceed to allow Australian visitors from 1 July. Speaking of Australia, it’s rising steadily, with hotel booking volumes now well above the global average, at 33.95% YoY.

Behind Iceland’s WoW growth is Norway’s. The fellow Nordic country surpassed the global average on 10 May and has since jumped to 30.96% of 2019 levels, cementing its place beside Germany, Iceland and the Netherlands as one of Europe’s few markets outperforming the global average.

Could Portugal be the first southern European country to re-emerge from the pandemic? Beachgoers took their first dip this past week, after the government announced a phased lifting of lockdown restrictions, and a jump in hotel bookings mirrors their excitement. In two weeks, they’ve surged from 7.58% of last year’s levels to 20.89%. Incredibly, the volume of hotel bookings in neighbouring Spain—which has reported the fourth highest number of coronavirus cases in the world—has also doubled from 9.02% to 18.17% YoY this past week, after the country’s government declared quarantine restrictions would lift this summer and urged international holidaymakers to return.

For the fourth consecutive week, Taiwan’s hotel bookings have continued to rise, now sitting at 76.61% of 2019 levels and leading the world in booking momentum. While the country-wide volume in the US remains slow to increase, Miami’s has lifted 6.70% in the past week and Tampa’s now exceeds last year’s volume at 125.04%.

Having jumped from 12.87% of 2019 levels on 5 May, to 15.32% one week later and then to 19.39% this past Tuesday, the week-on-week growth of hotel bookings globally has accelerated over the last fortnight. As governments around the world further flex their loosening of restrictions, it seems we no longer have to predict how quickly consumers will act to travel again. The acceleration we’re witnessing in bookings makes it undeniable that many will act at the soonest possible moment.

Unsurprisingly, the biggest spike in hotel bookings over the past week has come from New Zealand where retail stores, restaurants and malls have reopened for the first time since a lockdown was implemented earlier this year. Nation-wide, the growth of hotel bookings almost doubled this past week, from 21.99% to 40.40% of 2019 levels, and the trajectory looks strong.

Across the Tasman Sea, the volume of hotel bookings in Australia has risen to nearly a quarter of last year’s levels and we expect the gap between Australian and global hotel bookings will only continue widening from here on out. That Australia-New Zealand travel bubble can’t be too far away.

For the first time this past week, we saw the booking momentum in both the Netherlands and Norway increase to 20.64% and 23.24% over 2019 levels, respectively. The two countries now join Germany (25.76%) in surpassing the global average from continental Europe.

Meanwhile, in the UK, hotel bookings in Bournemouth are fast approaching the global average level, at 15.54% of 2019 levels, driven perhaps by citizens seeking a beach destination getaway in the summer. UK hotels, pubs and restaurants are scheduled to reopen in some form from 4 July.

In spite of reporting Latin America’s first COVID-19 case, Costa Rica is proving to be one of the most successful nations in the fight against the coronavirus. The nation of 5 million—which has just over one doctor per thousand people—has outdone even New Zealand in keeping infection and death rates low, and its quick decision to close all international borders in mid-March is showing positive results. In the last two weeks, hotel bookings nation-wide have grown more than 60% from 7.91% of 2019 levels to 12.78%.

Speaking of high risers, how about Taiwan? The country’s booking volumes continue to soar, sitting now at 70.20% of the levels this same time last year.

A week after rising to above 12% of 2019 levels for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, global booking volume has risen past 14% of 2019 levels as markets around the world both eased restrictions and showed the potential for second waves of coronavirus transmissions.

Germany has served as continental Europe’s success story to date, due to its well-resourced health system and implementation of early mass testing. Yet, almost as quickly as restrictions have relaxed, the country’s reproduction number of coronavirus has again increased to above one in recent days. And, with that, its nation-wide bookings compared with the volume this same time last year rose to 19.36% over the weekend—its highest level since March—and hovered around the same level since. In spite of being one of the top two coronavirus epicentres within Germany, Hamburg is showing booking volumes well above the country average, at 25.45% of the prior year.

Similarly, within Asia, the momentum of bookings in the Maldives has been steady until early May. A rapid rise in coronavirus cases over the past few weeks, both within the nation’s capital and isolated islands, have seen the country remain in lockdown and likely re-imagining the role of luxury tourist resorts over the many months ahead.

Across the ocean, we see that Indonesia performed above the global average since mid-March before sinking to 6.43% of 2019 levels—its lowest point this year—on 29 April. While Indonesia has sadly suffered more coronavirus-related fatalities than any other East Asian country outside China, the government is already considering a phased reopening from next month. The discussions may be contributing to a booking momentum that is back on the upswing, led by the city of Makassar where the volume of hotel bookings is now more than half (57.30%) of last year’s levels.

Perhaps the biggest surprise this month has been the UAE, where booking volume has soared from 8.39% of the prior year on 1 May to 20.42% this past Tuesday. Likewise, Taiwan continues to rise with a booking volume above 60% from this same time last year and we expect this will be sustained growth from here on out. Tampa in the USA, too, remains a rising star with booking volume now at 82.34% of 2019 levels, driven perhaps by locals from hard hit areas along the east coast heading south to Florida. This is supported by short booking lead times for the Tampa region.

After declining steeply from late February to mid-March and then plateauing for almost a month thereafter, booking momentum at a global level has picked up marginally in the last two weeks. While marginal, it is the first incremental rise we have witnessed since March, to take global booking volume to above 12% of 2019 levels for the first time since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indeed, global booking volume this year hit its lowest point in the second week of April, dropping to 8.85% year-over-year. It’s a stark reality to the peak levels that hotels would ordinarily see during the Easter season.

The slight uptick in global booking momentum in the last two weeks may be indicative of a growing confidence around the world, spurred by governments that have begun (rightly or wrongly) to signal near-term easing measures.

We can see the confidence rising especially in pockets throughout Asia Pacific.

In Taiwan and Hong Kong—two markets that avoided a lockdown by rapidly implementing public health measures—booking volumes rose to 53.3% and 53.09%, respectively, Sunday and they look to continue rising. Across South-East Asia, booking momentum remains below 10% with the exception of Vietnam, which saw its year-over-year booking volume surge to 21.53% over the weekend, ahead of Labour Day holidays and domestic flights resuming.

Further south, within the Pacific, Australia is currently faring best with booking volumes rising to as high as 14.8% of 2019 levels this past week, while New Zealand and Fiji saw levels peak at 8.14% and 4.73% respectively. Australia may have had the toughest start to the year between the three markets, having endured rampant bushfires immediately prior to the current crisis, but the differences between the neighbouring countries isn’t surprising. The imposed lockdowns in New Zealand have been strict, and let’s not forget that Australia and New Zealand comprise Fiji’s two largest inbound markets. For Fiji—a key part of the ‘trans-tasman bubble’—a growing confidence within its top two source markets will be vital to the restart of its economy.

The US is now the largest tourism market outside Asia Pacific to see its national booking volume rise to above 15% over the same period in 2019, albeit with significantly varying volumes between key cities. This past week, the booking momentum in New York City peaked at 5.86% while Tampa in Florida reverted to its 42.13% volume of mid-March.

Only time will tell when we will see notable glimpses of hope within the EMEA region, although Germany, Iceland, Ireland and Norway appear to be on the up ever-so-slowly. Sweden, in spite of avoiding a lockdown, continues to mirror the global booking momentum.

The world was a different place in 2006 when I began the SiteMinder business. For starters, OTAs were only starting to flourish and few hotels had figured out how to get their rooms on this thing called ‘the internet’.

Needless to say the world of travel, especially online, has continued to explode since then and SiteMinder grew with it. Never would I have imagined the day that so many hotels, the lifeblood of the travel and hospitality industries, would be forced to close their doors or stand still in their lobbies void of guests.

In recent months, hoteliers and the travel industry at large have been forced to shift their focus from maximising revenues and profits to pure survival. From asking ‘how much can I earn from my next guest?’ as recently as February, today hoteliers are asking ‘when will people start travelling again?’

By exposing our own data resources, we at SiteMinder hope to do our bit, however small, in allowing all players within the hospitality and travel industries to track hotel recovery as it happens.

For this reason we have created the World Hotel Index, an aerial view of all the bookings of SiteMinder’s 35,000 customers, through more than 400 booking channels globally. The Index tells us how hotel bookings are performing year-over-year and it’s refreshed daily. We’ve ensured that data is available at a global, country and city level, to provide insight into both macro and local trends, which are critical for hoteliers, hotel investors and travel professionals during this time of uncertainty and the staggered lifting of lockdowns around the world.

The World Hotel Index is our small contribution to hoteliers who have given the world so much and, even today, are joining the COVID-19 frontlines to play their part. We know inevitably their role will be as critical as ever once this pandemic passes, and we look forward to celebrating with them as we start to see those bookings coming in once more.