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Hotels, Restaurants, and Travel: Consumer Trends Around Hospitality

How has the conversation around the hospitality industry changed lately?

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REPORTHotels, Restaurants, and Travel: Consumer Trends Around Hospitality

How has the conversation around the hospitality industry changed lately?

Welcome & introduction

The hospitality industry was among those most impacted by the pandemic. With limited travel, empty hotels, and restaurants ordered to close, we had to adjust to a new normal. In 2022, restrictions in many places have started to ease – and online conversations and attitudes towards leisure and travel are shifting.

Social data provides key insights for the hospitality industry to better understand and cater to their audiences, so we jumped in to discover which trends to expect in this important year.

For the purpose of this report, we’ve defined hospitality as including the following:

  • Accommodation, hotels, and lodging
  • Food and beverage (F&B)
  • Travel and vacations

Read on to find out the trending topics and consumer pain points for the hospitality industry.

The state of the hospitality industry

Travel, restaurant culture, and accommodation are undoubtedly bouncing back after the pandemic. Mentions of hospitality on social media hit a high in February 2022 compared to the last year, with nearly 51 million mentions in a single month.

Comparing this to February 2021, mentions are up by 48%. This is promising news for the hospitality industry. With more individuals discussing going on holiday, booking hotels, and going out for dinner, we can use this data to discover how consumers are feeling about getting back to normal.

Let’s look deeper into what’s being discussed.

As seen in the chart above, the food and beverage (F&B) industry is a hot topic this year. There was a huge influx in conversations about restaurants, bars, and eating out in late 2021 and early 2022. Conversations about travel have also increased since the start of the year, while accommodation mentions have remained steady.

What does this mean? It’s likely that, with the promise of a brand new year, people have become more excited about the end of many COVID-19-related restrictions worldwide. Now air travel is back on the cards and restaurants are opening fully, more consumers are booking summer holidays and discussing their dinner plans online.

Let’s dive into each of these conversations and see what brands can learn.

Shifts in vacation behavior

Vacations are back! After a substantial dip in travel since the start of the pandemic in early 2020, restrictions have eased in many parts of the world.

There’s predicted to be a 54% increase in passengers flying in 2022 compared to 2021. However, predicted passenger numbers are still almost a third lower than pre-pandemic levels. This is a stark reminder that we’re not back to normal just yet and the travel industry still needs a year or two to find its feet.

Online conversations about vacations are also bouncing back. Read on to discover what customers are saying about vacationing in 2022.

How are people feeling about upcoming trips?

Since the start of 2022, the majority of conversations about travel have been positive. A huge 41% of mentions have been categorized as joyful.

This suggests people are excited for upcoming trips, which they may have had to postpone previously. Many are excited about the newfound freedom that comes with the world opening up again, and others discuss where they’d like to travel to.

On the other hand, it’s hard to ignore the 23% of angry mentions. So, what’s being discussed?

The expense of traveling is a huge pain point among vacationers, as well as delayed travel. And these frustrations aren’t exclusive to any one type of transport. From trains to planes, customers are quick to express disappointment towards delays.

Consumers have high expectations and excitement around vacations, as is highlighted by the massive amount of joyful conversations. When those expectations are dashed, brands are punished online. In fact, we found in a recent report that the airline industry is among the most negatively talked about industries on social media.

How can travel companies get on the right side of the conversation? It seems communication is key. Liaising directly with passengers affected by delays can prevent them from taking to social media to express concerns. Equally, investing in the efficiency of services is a must for the travel industry.

Packing troubles

After a few years house-bound, there’s a rising conversation online about forgetting what to pack for vacation. From swimsuits to passports, passengers are taking to Twitter to express their shortcomings.

Giving customers a checklist of what to bring a few days before their departure might help travel companies limit disruption at airports and hotels. Plus, passengers will be grateful for the reminder.

Vacation anxiety is peaking

After two years of staying local, people are taking to Twitter and Reddit to express concerns about going away. Many are still nervous about being in close contact with others, especially when traveling. In December 2021, we saw the biggest peak in conversations about anxiety when traveling since the start of the pandemic.

This conversation has a couple of key strands.

1. COVID concerns

A huge talking point is uncertainty with traveling. Many countries currently require negative COVID-19 tests pre-flight in order to increase the safety of flying. With this, passengers are expressing concerns over being able to provide a negative result.

Paying attention to customer safety is important for all areas of the travel industry. The better the precautions, the more likely it is for passengers and guests to feel safe and secure.

2. Climate anxiety and staycations

The anxiety around vacationing isn’t just due to the pandemic. Climate change conversations are a hot topic online – and they’re on the rise. Climate anxiety, alongside #globalwarming, #climateaction, and #tacklethecrisis, have all been trending topics in recent months. The impact that air travel is having on the environment isn’t going amiss.

With the influx of ‘staycations’ since the pandemic, it’s likely that many travelers will opt to stay local for a while longer. The rising cost of living, anxiety around COVID-19, and concerns for the environment all factor into this.

Live events are back in business

Live events are back. What does this mean for the hospitality industry? We looked into key returning events in 2022 to examine the conversation in detail.

Business events in 2022

South by Southwest (SXSW) returned in-person this year. After two years of online events, this renowned business conference came back bigger than ever. Featuring keynotes from Grammy winners Beck and Lizzo, SXSW saw tens of thousands of attendees heading to Austin, Texas.

What does this mean for the hospitality industry? Any event with the size and magnitude of SXSW is bound to bring tourism to local restaurants and hotels. When looking at online mentions of hospitality during the conference, almost 70% of conversations were positive. This included mentions of local hotels and restaurants, who not only hosted SXSW attendees but were also booked for spin-off events.

Appealing to the audiences of local conferences is an easy way to draw more customers to your business. Plus, with many people excited to get out there and enjoy in-person events again, there’s a likelihood that they’ll take to social media to talk positively about their experiences.

Note: Read on to the next section to hear about accommodation trends for business travelers.

Coachella, held in California, is famed for its influential presence on social media. From impressive outfits to big-name headliners, the festival is one of the most talked about online. Taking place over two weekends in April 2022, this year’s headliners included Harry Styles and Billie Elish.

The first weekend of Coachella, from 15 to 17 April 2022, saw more mentions online than the entire 2019 festival. Day 2 of this year’s Coachella generated over 1.5 million conversations alone, 63% more than any other Coachella event since 2016. It’s safe to say that festivals are back and bigger than ever.

After two years of canceled festivals, music-lovers are keen to see their new favorite artists. Megan Thee Stallion, a main stage performer at Coachella, rose to fame during the pandemic after the release of her song Savage in March 2020. This year’s festival was her first Coachella, and fans were excited to see her perform. She was a trending topic, generating 55,000 mentions during the first weekend.

Using the recent Coachella festival as a basis for the upcoming festival season, it’s clear that music-lovers are keen to get back to supporting their favorite artists – new and old. This year’s festival season will likely be one to remember, with the biggest moments amplified by renewed excitement in live entertainment.

Football (or soccer) World Cup

While the men’s football World Cup doesn’t start until November, chatter online is already beginning. After already being delayed due to the pandemic, fans are excited to support their favorite teams once again. However, this year’s event might not have as big of an impact on the hospitality industry as previous years.

This year’s World Cup is set in November. The subtropical climate of host country Qatar has pushed the event back – making it the first tournament not to be held in May, June, or July. This has caused some controversy; for a many, the event will land in winter.

This unusual winter-setting could mean fans will enjoy the excitement from the comfort of their own homes. Many, especially those in Europe, have taken to Twitter to express concerns over the lack of sunny settings to watch the games in.

Since the announcement of the postponement of the World Cup in Qatar on October 21 2021, there have been thousands of mentions of the lack of an event in summer. Equally, 70% of emotion-categorized mentions about the timing of this year’s World Cup were posted in a sad context.

However, this doesn’t mean fans aren’t excited. After the final draw on April 1, there was a huge boost in World Cup-related tweets. During the week commencing March 28 2022, there were over 180,000 joyful mentions about the World Cup.

The #FinalDraw hashtag on Twitter received almost 50,000 uses on the day of the draw. With this excitement beginning six months ahead of the World Cup, we can expect the live event to draw in millions of customers to bars, pubs, and beer gardens alike. Venues that will experience cold temperatures during the World Cup would do well to ensure they have heaters in good working order!

When looking at mentions of hotels, hostels, and accommodation on Twitter this year, emotion-categorized mentions occuring in a joyful context took the top spot. With 30% of these conversations expressing happiness, many users were thankful for the friendliness and helpfulness of hotel staff.

Customers tweeting about positive experiences is always good publicity for any business. For the hospitality industry, going above and beyond for customers is an easy way to ensure word-of-mouth referrals.

On the other hand, sadness accounted for 22% of emotion-categorized mentions about accommodation, and anger was the cause of a further 19%. These negative conversations can commonly be attributed to slow WiFi, poor room service, and lodging complaints.

Looking specifically at negative mentions of hotel rooms on Twitter, the main theme was disappointment in cleanliness. Early hotel check out times were also commonly discussed, while many expressed disappointment when finding dirty rooms when checking in.

It’s worth noting that frustration surrounding quarantining in hotels was also a frequent theme.

Business professionals vs vacationers

Business travel makes up a large percentage of hotel stays. International travel statistics suggest that 1.3 million people travel for business every day in the US alone. Plus, a reported 40% of hotel guests are business professionals. So, how does this impact the accommodation industry?

Interestingly, business professionals are much more likely to have negative sentiment towards aspects of their hotel stay than other kinds of visitors.

We looked into how the general public discuss accommodation compared to those traveling for business. Looking at breakfast, customer service, and sleep and comfort as indicators towards different aspects of accommodation, we found that sentiment is much different across both demographics.

Business professionals are twice as likely to have negative conversations online regarding customer service and sleep and comfort. Equally, they’re over half as likely to have positive conversations about their experiences.

Brandwatch image
Brandwatch image

The high demands of work travel might be the reason why business professionals value their sleep highly. A huge 53% of sleep and comfort-related mentions by business professionals were negative, indicating a lack of satisfaction with sleeping arrangements. Hotels might benefit from keeping this in mind, offering more ways for business travelers to wind down after work. This could be as simple as sleep masks, but could also include better light and sound insulation or access to sleep music or meditations.

Another notable difference came when analyzing customer service mentions. The general public were more than twice as likely to praise friendly or helpful hotel staff compared to business visitors. This suggests that business professionals compliment positive experiences in different ways. Accommodation providers might benefit from following up with business travelers to ensure they were satisfied with their stay.

The future of food and beverage culture

The conversation around the food and beverage (F&B) industry is growing. In the first quarter of 2022, there was a 19% increase in mentions about dining out, restaurants, bars, and takeout food and drink compared to the previous period. Foodies are keen to explore new and old eateries as the pandemic eases.

The largest emotion surrounding F&B was joy, accounting for 57% of emotion-categorized mentions. People were delighted with great food and friendly service, which influenced the conversations they had online.

Anger took second place, with this emotion presenting itself in 18% of mentions. Topics included slow service, ‘extremely loud’ atmospheres, and mediocre food. These pain points are areas the F&B industry should prioritize to avoid common complaints.

Going out vs staying in

As we mentioned in our Consumer Trends for 2022 Report, dining out began to be perceived as ‘not worth the cost’ towards the end of 2021. However in the first quarter of 2022, this might be changing.

Those who ordered food in were twice as likely to have a negative experience. Consumers who dined out in a restaurant, cafe, or bar tended to have a better time, with almost half of all online mentions being joyful.

This is a substantial difference between the two, and it’s promising for restaurants who rely on customers dining in rather than taking away.

However, this difference might be explained by customers taking to social media to voice disappointment if something is wrong with their online order instead of speaking to restaurant staff in person. To combat this, the F&B industry can offer clear methods of communication for customers, to ensure high standards of satisfaction throughout the entire ordering process.

Final thoughts

While it might have a long way to go, the hospitality industry is certainly bouncing back post-pandemic. However, the conversation has shifted. Consumers are still affected by their pandemic routines, and the hospitality industry will need to continue to cater to the new needs of their customers.

From COVID-19 anxiety around travel to watching the World Cup at home, the hospitality industry faces all kinds of challenges this year. Businesses that listen, enabling them to quell worries and delight their consumers, are the most likely to thrive.

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