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How QLD hoteliers can take home gold during next April’s sporting extravaganza

November 1, 2017 OTA News No Comments Email Email

Held over 11 days in April 2018, the Gold Coast is preparing to host the biggest sporting and cultural event in QLD’s history, with more than 6,600 athletes and team officials from 70 nations and territories set to come to Australia.Such is the spectator interest in the upcoming event, the opening ceremony, rugby sevens and netball finals had sold out eight months in advance.

Based on the latest official forecast, more than 1.2 million spectators will journey to the Gold Coast next April[2]. To educate Queensland hoteliers, and particularly those located in the Gold Coast, to forward plan and make the most of this high-tourism event, the Expedia group dived into data insights[3] and learnings from the one of the biggest sporting events held in Glasgow in 2014.

  1. Domestic travellers dominated demand

Domestic travellers from around the United Kingdom brought in the lion’s share of business for Glasgow hoteliers during the event period in 2014. While the normal split for visitors to Glasgow is relatively close, at 55% domestic and 45% international demand, nearly 70% of the total demand during the 2014 sporting event came from domestic travellers. This 25% surge is most likely due to the large number of competitors representing the four home nations of the United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, which drew multitudes of loyal sports fans.

Booking windows (BW) for the period were significantly longer than usual. UK travellers booked way in advance, with an average booking window of over 110 days, quadrupling the normal average BW of 25 days. In contrast, the BW for international travellers was much shorter at 58 days prior to travel. Although international visitors generated only one-third of the overall demand and booked much later, they paid 1.5 times more than domestic travellers for their hotel rooms during the festivities.

  1. Steep rise in hotel prices likely to have deterred international visitors 

While it’s no surprise large-scale events present great opportunities for hoteliers to fill hotel rooms, learnings from Glasgow highlight why a careful and considered pricing approach is key to handling tournament tourism.

During the same sporting event in Glasgow in 2014, international demand experienced the sharpest decline. Many Glaswegian hoteliers, in anticipation of demand, almost tripled their Average Daily Rate (ADR) compared with the same period a year earlier. ADRs rose substantially by 180% YoY during the period. This is in stark contrast to the two weeks before and after the sporting competition, where the typical ADR growth was around 30% YoY. The significant jump in ADR was likely the reason for the drop in overall demand, with international visitors taking the brunt of the decline at minus 30% YoY.

Further, the number of international feeder markets to Glasgow fell by a quarter (25%) when compared with the same period the year prior, suggesting the steep increase in pricing may have deterred travellers from visiting the host city.

  1. Top international feeders remain resilient; surge in demand from participating countries

With or without the festivities of the sporting event, US and Canada remained as Glasgow’s top two feeder markets, together generating nearly 20% of the total demand during the summer months of 2013 and 2014. For Glasgow, the US is the top inbound market based on demand generated by the Expedia group. Data revealed that two weeks prior to the competition, Americans generated two times more demand than the Canadians. However, during the period of the sporting event, Canada – an active participant in the competition, surpassed the US by 35%, overtaking the US to become the top inbound market for Glasgow.

Unsurprisingly, Commonwealth countries shifted rankings for Glasgow’s top international feeder list during the competition. Non-participating countries such as Germany and France, which traditionally ranked 3rd and 4th as Glasgow’s key feeder markets, dropped to 5th and 8th place during the period. A few participating countries moved up the ranks with Australia leading the charge, moving from 6th to 3rd place, while New Zealand progressed by 10 spots from 16th to  6th place during the event period.

Key takeaways for QLD hoteliers

Data[4] in April this year showed that domestic travellers dominated the bulk of the overall demand. Almost 80% of the total QLD demand was domestic, largely driven by home-grown travel brands under Wotif Group. Noting that QLD will host one of their biggest sporting and cultural events next April, we can expect a surge in domestic demand through this channel, given Australia’s unwavering support for the iconic sports tradition and its sports-mad culture. In terms of international feeder markets, the US, New Zealand, UK, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, Germany, South Korea, Singapore and Sweden were the top ten inbound markets in April 2017 for QLD.

Next April, QLD hoteliers are likely to experience a possible shift in these rankings as Commonwealth nations such as New Zealand, UK, Canada and Singapore move up the ranks.  However, given Glasgow’s cautionary tale, Aussie hoteliers should also continue to focus on Expedia’s core feeder markets to Australia such as US, Japan and Hong Kong, which are not necessarily the Commonwealth nations.

Drew Bowering, senior director of market management at Expedia group, says the blockbuster multi-sporting event presents a good opportunity for QLD hoteliers to capitalise on increased visitor demand. “While major events can dramatically impact visitor numbers and hotel pricing for a destination, it’s not always easy for hoteliers to decide how to handle these waves of tourism. We are working closely with our hotel partners in QLD, in the shoulder periods as well as during the events, to help them maximise these opportunities and optimise revenue in the lead-up to and during compression periods,” he said.

The Expedia group’s top tips to help maximise demand to the Gold Coast in April 2018:

  • Cater for family travel: Sporting and cultural events are always a drawcard for families. Make sure your rooms cater for even the youngest of guests. Sports tourists can be big spenders, but ultimately they come for the love of the game, so prepare for a broad range of travellers.  
  • Consider your length of stay policy: In peak periods it can be hard to anticipate demand for hotels, so it is tempting to enforce a length-of-stay policy to ensure rooms are booked for longer. Data2 from Glasgow showed the average length of stay was about two days, and some hotels that had originally set length-of-stay policies had to release them, and missed out on demand. Make sure your policy allows for the quick trip, especially for the domestic market.
  • Optimise revenue: Although demand will be much higher during the sporting event period, it is important accommodation is priced well, as high prices can scare away potential guests. Aim to price reasonably before, during and after the competition to avoid empty rooms. Hotels should also take advantage of all distribution channels; as the event draws closer, more guests will look to book online and will be willing to spend more for a room. REV+ is a free tool available on Expedia® PartnerCentral (EPC) thatenables hotel partners to make smarter data-driven decisions based on real-time, public-rate shopping data and market demand forecasts, will help hoteliers keep track of competitors’ pricing and revenue.

“Compression periods, such as busy sporting or cultural events, can be tricky business, requiring strong collaboration, hands-on strategies and good common sense. With the right approach, Queensland hotels and those who visit them, will be on to a winner,” concluded Mr. Bowering.

The Expedia Group does not have a sponsorship arrangement with or relating to the Commonwealth Games or a Games-related entity or event.

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