Let’s face it 2020 has not got off to the start we all would have hoped for on December 31st. In the past weeks we have seen a viral infection grip the nation, dramatically changing the way we live our lives. The unemployment figures hit the worst level seen since the last recession.
For most of us, thanks to the sudden abundance of free time
on our hands, tasks that had been put on the long finger have finally got done.
Sheds and gable walls painted, and more queen cakes baked than any Bake Off has
ever been seen before. And while the nation scrambled to entertain itself and
occupy this newfound time, there has been a knock-on effect on the digital
world. This was to be expected. Certain retail sectors prospered as shoppers flocked
to eCommerce websites to make purchases of gardening items, groceries and
pharmaceutical items. Other sectors have not been so fortunate. One such sector
is the hospitality sector.
As Covid 19 restrictions came into force in Ireland, the
hospitality sector was left reeling with closures and restrictions so severe
that some industry experts ponder whether the trade will recover from the shock
and declaring that there will be closures as a direct result of ongoing
precautionary measures. In an effort to gain understanding of a sector that so
heavily relies on the online marketplace for survival, we have taken a closer
look at how the Covid 19 restrictions have played out in the Hospitality trade online
environment. We have examined over 1400 sector specific keywords and compared
their search interest, year on year during the month of March to get an idea of
how increasing restrictions has led to a decline in business and bookings
within hospitality businesses.
Firstly, we compiled the 1400 keywords into categories:
branded, location specific, eateries & restaurants. This allowed us to get
a better understanding of the year on year decline for smaller subsets of
keywords. Interestingly, across each of our categories we found there to be a
decline of approximately 38%. This is no surprise considering that trips to and
within Ireland went to the back of consumers minds. Add to this the travel
restrictions imposed by other countries which resulted in the tourism sector
practically vanishing overnight.
Drilling into the findings, we see that eateries and
restaurant searches did suffer some decline but appeared to be the least
effected. Searches for cafes, restaurants and bistros were down just 33% year
on year. This could be explained by the fact that many restaurants and eateries
mobilised quickly into take-out and delivery options, to offer those social
distancing a little of life’s luxuries at home.
Branded search terms were next on the table. These declined an
average of 38% across the board versus March 2019. Accommodation specific
searches displayed a notable decrease, although the figure of 38% does hide the
fact that many individuals were likely searching for hotels to cancel bookings.
The most notable decline, however, came in the Location
Specific Keyword subset, which experienced a 45% decline year on year. This
represented 44,000 fewer location specific searches arising within Ireland.
Again, in a similar fashion to our branded search terms above, this may prove
to be a false negative, as individuals may have been seeking out contact
details in order to cancel bookings.
As a whole, these figures certainly represent a shock to the
hospitality sector as a direct result of Covid 19 and the precautionary measures
put in place to overcome such a pandemic. While the future may be uncertain for
the sector, more insight will be gained upon reviewing April’s search interest
figures, where the true effect on the sectors search interest will be apparent.
For now, the figures for one of Ireland’s largest employers looks bleak and we
can only hope for an early return to opening times and the easing of