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Eric Bergaglia at the trade fair and congress centre in Malaga. Migue Fernández
Booking.com boss says Costa del Sol has one of the strongest tourist summer forecasts

Booking.com boss says Costa del Sol has one of the strongest tourist summer forecasts

Speaking exclusively to SUR, the company's global head of accommodation says almost half of tourists this summer will be more indulgent than usual with their holiday spending habits

Pilar Martínez

Malaga

Monday, 22 May 2023, 18:28

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The Costa del Sol has one of the strongest tourist forecasts for summer, according to Booking.com boss Eric Bergaglia.

The global head of the online travel agency’s accommodation division visited Malaga for an event and praised the province and its potential.

He said the Costa del Sol "has one of the strongest tourist forecasts" for a summer that is experiencing a huge growth in bookings.

Bergaglia also said that almost half of the tourists "will be indulgent with their holiday spending habits".

Did you know Malaga and the Costa del Sol before?

Yes, and I am very happy to be here. The south of Spain is great, especially the Costa del Sol, which also has one of the strongest tourist forecasts. This is totally understandable because of the services, accommodation, fantastic weather and good connections with other regions of Spain and Europe.

What expectations do you have for these destinations, along with Andalucía?

Spain is, in general, a beautiful country with a great geographical, climatic, cultural and gastronomic diversity. It is an incredible place and that is why, year after year, we see the number of visitors increasing. Travellers want to see the whole country and not just the beaches, something we have seen over the years. But, for example, we know from our data that Malaga is in the Top 10 of international destinations sought after by travellers from Belgium, Denmark, France and the Netherlands.

We can see that there is a great desire to travel, but what other changes are you noticing?

Travel has recovered and will continue to recover, people have an innate desire to travel and experience the world around them. There is no doubt that traveller preferences will continue to evolve over time, so the travel industry will need to be diligent and agile in its approach to meet the demands. Booking.com is working to provide the necessary support and technology to ensure that its accommodation partners are prepared to meet and exceed travellers' expectations by offering transparency, peace of mind and tailored travel. There are some key preferences such as flexibility, remote working, or alternative accommodations. More travellers are exploring short-term rentals according to our latest results. We saw encouraging progress in nights in alternative accommodation in the first quarter which were up around 45% year-on-year, and represent around 33% of Booking.com's total nights, or two points higher than in Q1 2022.

How are accommodation prices rising and why do you think that, despite this, demand is still on the rise?

It's true that inflation is touching everywhere, but our latest travel trends survey confirmed that travellers will continue to prioritise travel, but will be more aware of how to make the most of their travel budget and what takes priority. For example, more than half of travellers (53%) will look to save money by considering off-season destinations or longer travel routes, while the majority (61%) will plan travel further in advance in the hope of getting a better deal. More than half (55%) believe that the best use of their budget is to opt for one or two longer holidays rather than several short breaks. Nearly half (49%) admit they plan to be more lenient with their holiday spending habits to make up for a lack of travel over the last couple of years, while 43% plan to spend generously to maximise their trip and make every experience worthwhile.

Are hotels still the most in-demand accommodation or are they being eaten up by the sharp increase in holiday homes?

Short-term rentals (houses and flats) in both urban and rural areas are a key component of Booking.com's overall goal to offer travellers the widest variety and diversity of accommodation in one place. In fact, of the more than 29 million properties listed on Booking.com, more than 6.6 million are homes, flats and other unique places to stay. More than 1.4 billion guests stayed in one of our 6.6 million alternative accommodations and 2022 was the best year ever. Bookings in this type of offering grew by 56% compared to 2021 and 11% compared to 2019 and accounted for around 30% of Booking.com's total nights.

What are your expectations for the summer?

Based on our latest results, we are currently seeing very strong growth in bookings received so far for travel during our peak summer period in Q3, although we are mindful that these bookings represent a modest percentage of what is likely to be booked for summer travel, and most of these bookings are cancellable.

Do you think 2023 is going to outperform the historic year of 2019?

It is true that the current macroeconomic environment plays an important role in travellers' decision making, but so does the desire to travel. Our latest results show that Booking.com advance bookings have increased versus 2019 for the first time since the pandemic began and were higher in the first quarter than we expected, due to the large number of bookings for travel this summer. Compared to 2019, we expect nights to increase in the second quarter, with some moderation in growth compared to the first quarter and April. We expect the travel community to continue to embrace travel.

Have you noticed the concern of the demand for sustainability and do you think it is starting to be a determining factor when choosing between one accommodation or another?

Definitely, sustainability is one of the pillars of our strategy. In fact, we have listened to travellers and just a couple of weeks ago we published our annual Sustainability Report with feedback from over 33,000 travellers in 35 countries and territories, which highlights the dilemma people are facing as they feel potentially forced to choose between cutting costs and being more conscious of making more sustainable travel choices.

What challenges is tourism facing at the moment?

The challenge is daily. We have to improve every day in order to compete and that is the biggest challenge we face.

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