A report released by SiteMinder – The New Realities for a Hotel Industry in Need of a Reset – details the five stages that will result in the rebooting of the hotel industry’s booking cycle, including domestic acceleration, plateauing, flux, embracing and international acceleration.

For its part, the U.S. hotel industry is currently in the second: plateauing, with a “decrease in booking momentum, seen after a local surge or rise in COVID-19 causing restrictions,” the study said. It noted that after a significant boost in domestic bookings through May and the first half of June, booking percentages remain “stable at 58.45 percent of 2019 levels.”

The first stage, domestic acceleration, occurred earlier this year with “lockdowns being lifted … followed by a strong burst of excitement among travelers, who have longed to escape the confines of their homes,” the study said.

The third stage, flux, will cause “irregular booking behaviors, due to threatening restrictions or growing concerns of a rise in COVID-19 cases.”

The fourth stage “is all about stabilization with the embracing of new norms,” and the fifth stage, international acceleration, will be “predicted as international borders reopen,” according to the research.

“The question everyone in travel has asked this year is whether the industry will ever completely go back to the way it was, and we know now that in some ways it will, but in many other ways it will differ, perhaps permanently,” said Mike Ford, managing director at SiteMinder a global hotel industry acquisition platform. “Our study documents the journey we have all taken so far and the journey we are all taking now, whether we realize it or not.”

The report also highlighted today’s most substantive hotel and travel trends, including the large number of last-minute bookings. As a case in point, it noted that 68 percent of all U.S. bookings were for stays in October.

Other trends uncovered by the report include the preference for shorter trips, with one-third of travelers demanding flexible booking and cancellation policies when choosing a hotel room.

The study gleaned its information from real-time booking data of 35,000 hotels in SiteMinder’s World Hotel Index and responses from 5,000-plus travelers in the U.S., Australia, France, Germany, Italy, Mexico, Spain, Thailand and the U.K., along with interviews with hoteliers.

Although it noted that the pandemic has had a negative financial impact on three out of four travelers, 85 percent of respondents said they are likely to take their next domestic trip before the end of 2021.

“We are living in the democratized economy, with neither travel and accommodation providers nor travelers in control. COVID-19 has been the ultimate equalizer,” Ford said. “For now, travel is no longer a booming industry of endless trips that we are able to take for granted. Travel has become a privilege again, which means that the future for every hotel is one of more discerning guests and shorter lead times. Predictable seasonality is over.”