Global GDS channel results for the third quarter show that business bookings rallied during July and August, coming within +3% of prior year. September reservations returned to pre-summer levels, coming in at -7.8% less than last year, but didn’t dip as low the -8.9% decrease in June. Rates played a much more stable role overall. Although easing to just -1.5% below last year in September, global ADR has consistently hovered near or above prior year.
These revenue factors continue to reflect the reality of ongoing business travel demand in an uncertain economic environment. Uncertainty breeds hesitation and a more conservative approach toward travel decisions, which caused uneven booking patterns and performance against prior year.
Average length of stay and booking lead times also reflect companies’ firm focus on revenue-generating activities. Trips continue to remain brief, helping to maximize the return on travel spend, and resulting in fuller, more concise agendas. The global average length of stay in September was 2.12 days versus 2.15 days last year, shorter by -1.1%.
Booking windows are remaining close to last year’s length as well, impacted by both transient and group travel demand. The global average booking lead time in September was 16.17 nights versus 16.14 nights last year, longer by +0.2%. Transient and small meeting business travel, typically booked closer to arrival than group travel, has shown renewed growth with its more targeted and immediate revenue objectives. Larger meeting and conference travel remains sturdy with modest recovery that will gain more momentum as the general economy picks up.
November's global corporate bookings slipped from October's spike of +5.3% over last year to just -1.7% under last year, yet remained favorable to the -2.8% decrease year-to-date. Rates improved slightly from October's decrease of -1.6% to -1.4% below 2011 in November. North American corporate bookings remained within -3.3% of prior year, which was accompanied by a rise in rates of +1.4%. Looking forward, the managed travel segment is expected to keep pace with prior year through January, potentially easing in February and March.
In contrast, Leisure hotel bookings for the 2012 holiday season are expected to outpace 2011, according to Pegasus Solutions. These anticipated results follow November 2012 volumes that also surpassed the prior year's.
Globally, leisure bookings increased over prior year by a substantial +5.7% in November, which follows an increase of +9.2% realized in October. In North America, where the month heralds the start of the busy holiday travel season, bookings grew by +6.6% over prior year. Rates on the global level held steady, growing +0.6%, as North America saw larger gains of +2.8%.
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