How the Pandemic Has Altered Hotel Booking Habits in Europe

Aerial photo of Quaint river town with night lights

The fifth HOTREC Hotel distribution study has provided new insights on the evolution of distribution channels used to reserve hotel rooms, specifically focusing on the role of online travel agencies (OTAs).

Almost 3,900 European hoteliers of various locations, sizes and star ratings provided responses covering the source of reservations made during the 2021 pandemic year. From the results, Professor Roland Schegg of HES-SO Valais-Wallis Institute of Tourism identified several key trends:

  • Since 2014, the share of direct bookings has grown, mainly through reservations made via email or websites of hoteliers.
  • Despite an increase in direct bookings, the data for 2021 showed that reliance on OTAs remains at similar levels as in 2019.
  • Booking Holding is the most influential player, with a share of 71.2 percent in the OTA market. Over the last eight years, this has risen by over 11 percentage points, from 60.0 percent to 71.2 percent between 2013 and 2021.
  • Most hoteliers (55 percent) feel pressured by OTAs to accept platforms' terms and conditions that hotels would otherwise voluntarily not offer.
  • As of 2021, Hotel Ads by Google is the meta-search market leader (73 percent), followed by Tripadvisor (57 percent) and Trivago (44 percent). In 2013, previously Tripadvisor led the market with a usage share of 71 percent.


Evolution of direct bookings and bookings via online intermediaries in Europe 2013 - 2021

Evolution of direct bookings and bookings via online intermediaries in Europe 2013 - 2021

"The increase in direct bookings would be warmly welcome if it were not for the more devastating impacts of the pandemic on the European hotel sector," said Markus Luthe, Chairman of the HOTREC Working Group on Distribution and CEO of the German Hotel Association (IHA).

"Direct contact with hoteliers was undeniably reassuring for travellers during the pandemic because specific concerns and queries can be easily addressed via a simple phone call or email. Important reminder: these advantages of booking directly are just as valid in normal times! We hope this trend persists during the recovery of tourism and hospitality."

The full results of the study can be downloaded here.