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Riu Hotels expects direct bookers to return to travel agents

Holidaymakers who opted to book hotels direct during the pandemic are forecast to return to using travel agents when operator services return to normal.

The prediction came from Riu Hotels chief executive Luis Riu, who revealed a 15% rise in bookings on pre-pandemic levels made via the chain’s direct channels and OTAs at the end of last year.

“This increase includes customers from other channels who will return to their travel agent of choice when operators get back to normal, as well as new, mostly local customers that book on short notice, who we think will stay with us,” Riu said.

Describing 2021 as a “highly complex” year, he said it marked the start of the company’s recovery, “but we have yet to consolidate this progress”.

Riu added: “We started to make a profit again following losses in 2020, and we recovered a large part of the jobs we lost during the pandemic.

“At the end of 2021, we had 100 hotels open in 20 countries, 49,832 rooms and a workforce of 28,004.

“Over the course of these months, we welcomed a total of 4.2 million customers and gross sales rose to €1.375 billion, a 66% increase compared to 2020.”

He said: “There’s no denying that the situation is much better than in 2020, but we can’t avoid the fact that the Covid-19 crisis is far from over.”

The Spanish company plans further openings for 2022, including in Zanzibar, Senegal, Mexico and New York with the second hotel in Times Square.

Further renovations are planned for hotels in Cape Verde, Madeira, Los Cabos/Mexico and Mauritius.

Construction is in full swing for Riu Plaza hotels in London – due to open in 2023 – and Toronto. The foundation stone for the Riu Plaza Hotel in Chicago will be laid in spring.

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