Exclusive: Choice roars as first half eclipses 2019 numbers

Choice Hotels Asia-Pac Celebrates Memorable First Half, After Second Quarter Results Show Direct Online Bookings Increased 155% and RevPAR Increased Nearly 50% Compared to the Same Period in 2019 .

“The first six months of this year have been better than our first six months of 2019 – no matter how you measure it,” said Choice Hotels Asia-Pac CEO Trent Fraser. SM.

“From a RevPAR perspective, year-to-date 2022, we’re up 17% from the same six months of 2019,” Fraser said.

“It just shows the appetite for revenge travel. What we’ve seen across the country, in both Australia and New Zealand, has exceeded our expectations for the first six months of this year. It was an incredible and quick recovery.

Choice set a new record for direct online bookings in the first half as many Australians chose to travel domestically.

“Our activity through our websites and our mobile app, for the first six months of this year, has already eclipsed all of 2019,” Fraser said.

This boom in digital bookings is the result of Choice’s continued investment in these direct channels.

“Digital is the most effective channel for us to generate business in our hotels,” Fraser said.

“We want to help [our hotels] get the most profitable activity possible – thanks to the mobile app and websites, there is no cost for the delivery of this booking compared to other agencies they might use – this is an area of absolute interest.

“We invest most of our marketing dollars in offline activities to bring the behavior back into the mobile app and our proprietary website as well.”

Bookings through July and into August show no signs of slowing down.

“Australian second quarter occupancy rates are 15 percentage points higher than 2019 levels,” Fraser said.

“This is a significant gain over pre-pandemic business conditions and bucks the onset of winter downturns seen in the past.”

However, prime properties in New Zealand have been slower to rebound, with occupancy levels returning to just above pre-pandemic levels in the second quarter – up 20% over the three months preceding June – but still outperforming market competitors.

“New Zealand is finally starting to take advantage of the return of international travel and is hosting its first ski season in two years,” Fraser said.

“The domestic travel market is still cautious, looking for good value in the midscale segment.”

Feedback from the annual conference

Choice also held its annual conference this week for the first time since February 2020, taking the opportunity to come together for shared learning and to reflect on recent challenges and successes.

During this period, Choice has expanded its portfolio by 42 properties in this region – 26 in Australia and New Zealand (12,081 rooms) and 16 in Japan, India, Thailand and China (743 rooms).

Fraser highlighted that ESG was a major focus of the conference and that the company was moving forward with new environmental and sustainability initiatives to be put in place to drive profitability.

“I think before that these issues were seen as just a cost – now it’s really about being able to use some of these environmental initiatives to actually save money and also increase profitability,” he said. he declared.

“We have two hotels that have a zero carbon footprint, so using them as a model [properties]sharing examples and ideas for bringing properties back to carbon neutral. »

Another important part of this strategy is the introduction of large-format equipment instead of single-use plastic products.

“We will save 7.8 pounds of plastic per room by not having individual amenity bottles, which will reduce single-use plastic usage by 83% per room per year,” Fraser said.

“I think that’s becoming more and more accepted now – that’s the expectation of the customer – they understand why the industry and ourselves are moving towards this.”

Choice also offers time-saving techniques across its properties to support teams during the industry’s critical staffing shortage. One of the ways to do this is to entrust its revenue management experts with managing inventory and setting hotel rates to give teams more time for other essential tasks.

“We have half of our hotels on the revenue management program, there are still a lot that are not and should be,” Fraser said.

“It drives better results from a revenue perspective, but more importantly it gives teams back something they don’t have today, which is time.”

Choice is also encouraging teams to offer on-demand housekeeping — an initiative first introduced during COVID that gives customers the ability to decide if and when they want housekeeping services.

“It can also save landlords significant savings by putting that flexibility back in the hands of guests, rather than just having it set up every day for every room.”

After such a successful half, Fraser says it would be “easy to feel very positive” for the future, but he admits the rapid recovery seen this year cannot be sustained in the longer term.

“[The recovery has] been so dramatic, so sharp and so aggressive,” he said.

“We think the rest of this year will still be very, very positive, but probably not at the rapid pace of recovery that we saw in the first half. And then next year I think there are economic headwinds. that we can see in the distance, which can make things a little more subdued.

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