Travel TrendsWill domestic demand prop up hotel stays when travel reopens? Hoteliers debate it out.

Are staycations here to stay?

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Of the 70,000 rooms in Singapore's market, the daily average demand by locals was only at 9% in 2019, says Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality. Pictured: Village Hotel Sentosa
Of the 70,000 rooms in Singapore's market, the daily average demand by locals was only at 9% in 2019, says Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality. Pictured: Village Hotel Sentosa

Staycations became one of the most popular holiday trends in the past year, but will they stay a permanent fixture of Asia’s hospitality sector?

The answer depends on who you ask, and which market is in consideration.

At SHATEC’s APacCHRIE 2021 conference, opinions were split among hoteliers when it comes to staycations.

For a small market like Singapore, where business travellers made up a core segment of hotel stays pre-pandemic, the answer is a resounding no for Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality.

“Staycations won’t be a staple. The fact that we tried to hype it up is akin to putting a band aid on someone involved in a massive traffic accident on the highway — that’s what staycation is in the context of Singapore,” said Kiong, without mincing his words.

In 2019, about 10% of total room nights in Singapore were taken up by domestic demand and that figure has stayed consistent since 2009, shared Horwath HTL’s managing director for Pacific Asia Robert Hecker. 

The staycation figure, however, hasn’t shifted much from 10% in the past year since the pandemic, said Kiong, despite efforts to encourage the population to spend on local attractions and hotels through Singapore Tourism Board’s SingapoRediscovers campaign.

Staycation performance is also uneven distributed across the market. Even hotels which “do rather well” on the staycation front, such as luxury hotels or properties with a resort-like experience, the domestic market only bumped up demand to around the 20% mark, he added.

Furthermore, the staycation demand is heavily tilted towards the weekends but hotels remain hard-pressed for business on weekdays, Kiong noted, questioning the sustainability of such strategies.

Sharing similar sentiments that staycations will remain a short-term strategy until travel reopens, Hilton’s senior vice president, brand management for Asia Pacific, Alexandra Jaritz said: “If you look at markets which are recovering, such as the US, there will be strong pent-up and people will be keen to get out of the local area to create memories and experiences, so it will be less staycations [when travel resumes].”

Marriott International’s president, Asia Pacific (excluding China) Rajeev Menon, on the other hand, believes that the staycation trend will continue in a strong position moving forward, noting that staycations have been driving hotel accommodation rebound in markets such as Sydney.

As well, Menon believes that the staycation trend will take off in Asia amid rising levels of disposable income levels, as family and friends look to get away without the hassle of travel.

“There’s definitely a rise in staycations and it’s going to be here to stay for a while,” said Menon.

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