The Manna by Haus, Ascend Hotel Collection in Hahndorf, South Australia.

Choice Hotels Asia-Pacific is experiencing a boom in direct online bookings, with a 13% increase reported in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the same period last year – reflecting a 58% lift on pre-pandemic figures.

The company said direct online bookings were stronger than ever in the first quarter, with month-on-month figures exceeding budgets.

“Direct online bookings through the Choice Hotels website and our booking app are driving significant value to our franchisee’s businesses and driving the recovery,” said Choice Hotels Asia-Pacific Senior Director, Strategy, Sales and Marketing, Kari Hunter.

And the trend has continued into Q2, with direct online growth in April up 20% year on year in APAC, and up 142% on 2019 figures, Choice reported. Hunter suspects customers are choosing to book direct for added security when travelling.

“Across the board our online channels exceeded all previous records. People are researching their local and interstate stays. They want brands they know and trust, and they want to book the hotel directly,” Hunter said.

Choice Hotels in Australia recorded 20% growth in revenue per available room (RevPAR) on last year and a 2% boost on market RevPAR in the first quarter.

In New Zealand, market recovery is slower, but Choice reported first quarter RevPAR was 49% higher than its market competitors. The company is hopeful of further progress when New Zealand’s border reopens fully at the end of July.

“Getting international travellers back to New Zealand is great news,” Hunter said.

“They have had it tougher for longer, but in New Zealand we’ve really seen the power of our brands – Ascend, Quality, Comfort and Econo Lodge – in attracting and keeping domestic business and leisure customers.

“Right now, the travelling public want to stay with brands they know and trust, and who have strong customer support on the end of the phone when things don’t go to plan.”

The Choice Privileges loyalty program welcomed over 10,000 new members from the Asia-Pac region in the first quarter of 2022.

“We now have almost 500,000 loyalty members across the Asia-Pacific region, and these are our best customers – they stay longer, return more often, and spend money onsite at our restaurants and in-room services,” Hunter said.

“With the international borders now open, Choice Hotels can leverage the 51million members globally as well as local members to drive business for our franchisees. And as privacy rules tighten around the globe reputable loyalty programs and first party data become a key tool for successful marketing and communication programs.”