Post-pandemic travel sparks mass return to motels
Australians are returning to motels as they hit the road to avoid air travel. Photo: Getty
The great Australian road trip is back with a vengeance – and it’s reviving another holiday classic in its wake.
Motels have become the big winners as high airfares and flight disruptions cause many Aussies to look locally for their getaways.
Wotif data shows 70 per cent of Australians are planning a domestic trip this summer, and the number of holidaymakers considering booking a motel for their next trip is rising – up 75 per cent this year compared to 2019.
Demand for beach motels also spiked 35 per cent in the past year.
The quality of today’s motels are “second to none”, thanks largely to recent renovations and their “unique character”, managing director at Wotif, Daniel Finch, said.
Many motel owners have used the past few years to complete renovations, revamps and updates, but in many cases they are leaning in to their ‘retro’ reputations – with modern spins.
‘Renewed taste for local travel’
Professor of practice at Griffith University, Daniel Gschwind, told The New Daily the uptick of interest in motels is a hangover from COVID restrictions combined with current travel issues.
The aviation industry has been plagued by delays and cancellations, largely due to understaffing, along with high airfares thanks largely to fuel prices jacked up by ongoing issues in Europe.
All of this has led to a “renewed taste for local travel”, Professor Gschwind said.
“We will see, at least for another 12 months or so, a strong interest in the domestic product and people willing to explore a bit more [of] what’s on offer here,” he said.
“And certainly we have seen during COVID, when many people took drive holidays, that regional products often featured motels because that’s what’s available in regional Australia.
“Certainly they’ve come into their own and are now reaping the rewards of catering for the domestic market.”
Motel success not a worry for Airbnb
Increased interest in motels comes as Airbnb copped a laundry list of complaints from guests over excessive checkout fees and ‘chores’.
Airbnb has taken the complaints seriously, with chief executive Brian Chesky taking to Twitter in November to announce major changes to some of the company’s most criticised policies, including cleaning tasks for guests.
While Mr Gschwind said motels have a “strong future”, this doesn’t necessarily spell the doom of Airbnb, arguably the modern giant of holiday accommodation.
Although forward-looking booking data is not currently available from the accommodation site, Airbnb’s quarterly financial results released in November showed this year’s third quarter was the company’s “most profitable quarter ever” globally.
An Airbnb spokesperson told The New Daily the cost-of-living crisis is also driving people to consider hosting as people look for more ways to earn extra income.
Hosts are still having “great success” at securing bookings quickly, and during this past summer, the typical Airbnb host in Australia earned more than $5700.
Mr Gschwind said people will always want the product that suits their needs the most.
“Depending on whether you’re travelling as a couple, by yourself, with family, with friends, we want what really suits us for that particular occasion,” he said.
“It may be that sometimes the same person uses a hotel in the city, but then very happily takes an Airbnb house somewhere on the beach.”
He said this summer will be a “bumper season” for the Australian tourism industry, which will leave many operators struggling to keep up as labour shortages persist.
“Notwithstanding that we have cost-of-living pressures, everybody still needs a break,” he said.
“And after nearly three years of COVID disruption, I think we’re well and truly ready to enjoy a bright holiday.”