Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of September 28th

Although COVID-19 concerns are rising, nearly two-thirds of American travelers plan to take a trip this Fall, including some notable interest in workcations and schoolcations.

 

 

IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15th, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and explored a variety of topics. The findings presented below represent data collected September 25th-27th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • After a month-long period of relatively lower levels of anxiety, the number of Americans with high degrees of concerns about contracting the coronavirus rose this week. Similarly, after a stable period in expectations for the virus’ course, the percent of Americans who feel things will get worse in the U.S. in the next month increased.
  • These rising concerns appear to be affecting confidence that travel can be done safely and perceptions of travel. The percent in a “ready to travel” mindset fell to 52.2% after being above 54% for the last month.
  • Nevertheless, three-quarters of American travelers continue to report having at least tentative trip plans—primarily over the next 6 months—as well as exhibit a perception of travel as a means to meet their emotional needs. The percent that agree price cuts and discounts can motivate them to consider a new trip is as high as it has been during the pandemic.
  • Looking at American travelers’ specific expectations for Fall, nearly two-thirds expect to travel this season, and these travelers anticipate taking 1.7 overnight trips on average. The top motivations for these Fall trips are relaxation, spending time with family and escapism, although younger travelers are also likely to be seeking connecting with nature and having new experiences.
  • Nearly 40% of likely Fall travelers say they will visit a small town or rural area on their Fall trips, with beach visitation less likely than in the summer months and urban travel increasing.
  • Interest in workcations among those who can work remotely and schoolcations among parents who travel with children is at similar levels—just under half have a more elevated degree of interest. In total, 52.2% of those interested in schoolcations reported some likelihood to take one this Fall, while 46.0% of those interested in workcations said they were likely to actually take one in these coming months.
  • American travelers’ comfort with enjoying their own communities for leisure activities and having tourists visit their regions are at pandemic period highs.

It’s officially Fall and Americans are increasingly hearing predictions and plans for the coming months while we remain in a global pandemic. After a month-long period of the lowest levels of concerns since May, the number of Americans with high degrees of concerns about contracting the coronavirus rose this week. Similarly, after a stable period in expectations for the virus’ course, the percent of Americans who feel things will get worse in the U.S. in the next month increased to 43.0% from 38.3% the week prior, and the percent who feel things will get better decreased to 21.3%.

 

 

These rising concerns appear to be affecting confidence that travel can be done safely and perceptions of travel. While the majority of American travelers do not view several core travel activities—such as staying in a hotel or going to a restaurant—as unsafe, the overall average “unsafe” rating of the two dozen travel activities we track has ticked up this week to 53.7%. Now 26.5% of American travelers are confident or very confident they can travel safely, down from 30.5% last week. After dropping below 40% for the last three weeks, 41.1% of American travelers now have some agreement they need a vaccine to travel. And the percent in a “ready to travel” mindset fell to 52.2% after being above 54% for the last month.

 

 

Nevertheless, three-quarters of American travelers continue to report having at least tentative trip plans—primarily over the next 6 months—as well as exhibit a perception of travel as a means to meet their emotional needs. Over 57% of American travelers agree that having a vacation scheduled in the next six months would make them feel there is something happy to look forward to. And another indicator that travel can be inspired under the right conditions is that the percent that agree price cuts and discounts can motivate them to consider a new trip is as high as it has been during the pandemic.

 

 

Looking at American travelers’ specific expectations for Fall, nearly two-thirds expect to travel this season, and these travelers anticipate taking 1.7 overnight trips on average. Citing what is keeping them from traveling even more than this, COVID-19 safety concerns—and relatedly, social pressure—is expectedly principal. The top motivations for these Fall trips are relaxation, spending time with family and escapism, although younger travelers are also likely to be seeking connecting with nature and having new experiences. Nearly 40% of likely Fall travelers say they will visit a small town or rural area on their Fall trips, with beach visitation less likely than in the summer months and urban travel increasing. Over a quarter of these likely Fall travelers—and nearly one-third of those Millennial or younger—plan to travel by airplane. As in summer, about a third expect to stay in a friend or relative’s home on these trips but hotels and other paid lodging options will be most common. While 41.9% report they will be more budget conscious on their Fall trips, dining out in restaurants, shopping and visiting outdoor attractions are among the top planned trip activities.

 

 

With nearly 60% of American travelers we surveyed reporting they can work remotely and many children remaining in online school, this week we looked into workcations—travel where people visit a vacation destination while still working remotely—and schoolcations—travel where students can vacation with their families while attending classes online. Interest in workcations among those who can work remotely and schoolcations among parents who travel with children is at similar levels—just under half have a more elevated degree of interest. In total, 52.2% of those interested in schoolcations reported some likelihood to take one this Fall, while 46.0% of those interested in workcations said they were likely to actually take one in these coming months. When asked to describe the ideal characteristics of a destination for these types trips, a beach/lake/waterfront location are of strong interest. For potential workcationers, they are seeking reliable high speed internet in relaxing and even remote environments. For potential schoolcationers, a destination that is fun while also peaceful is optimal.

 

 

Looking closer to home, American travelers’ comfort with enjoying their own communities for leisure activities is the highest it has been since March 15th. American travelers are also the most comfortable with tourism to their own regions than they have been in the pandemic—although 52.2% still agree they don’t want tourists visiting right now.

A complimentary report of these key findings is available for you to download and share.
You can register for our online presentation of these findings Tuesday at 11:00am EST.
We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers. If you would like further and deeper insights from the complete study, you can learn more here. Please consider donating or purchasing to support this research.
To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.
If you need shareable graphics, content for presentations, video presentations and more, please visit our COVID-19 Insights Media page here.

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of September 21st

As Americans’ daily stress levels have recently increased, there will be a greater prioritization of having new experiences, escaping boredom and simply finding joy. Openness to travel—and feeling they will have a good time doing it—continues to bloom.

 

 

IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15th, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and explored a variety of topics. The findings presented below represent data collected September 18th-20th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Nearly half of American travelers feel a high degree of stress in their daily lives. But while stress is up compared to a few months ago, the propensity to worry about coronavirus is down.
  • Since April, and amidst rising stress, more Americans are reporting stronger prioritization of relaxation, finding joy/happiness, and—especially important for travel—having new experiences.
  • Those who are already traveling (or ready to without hesitation) are far likelier to be prioritizing finding joy and escaping from boredom in their lives over the next six months compared to other Americans.
  • Openness to travel continues to bloom. The level of excitement for learning about new travel experiences or destinations to visit is at a pandemic-period high—one last obtained at the end of May.
  • Unlike early on in the pandemic, now less than 50% of American travelers consider staying in a hotel, Airbnb or home rental, dining in a restaurant, visiting an amusement park or other outdoor attraction, recreating outdoors and shopping to be unsafe. Overall perceptions of travel’s safety remain at the lowest levels they have been during the pandemic.
  • Now just 37% agree they need a vaccine to travel, down from a high of 45% at the start of August.
  • Half as many Americans are saying they are going to change the types of travel destinations they choose to visit post-pandemic than in April, and among those that are saying they will indeed change the types of destinations they choose to visit, more positive reasons are being offered up as to why than in prior months, including an increased willingness to explore new destinations and crossing places off their bucket lists.
  • Americans are also less likely to feel their leisure travel will be dampened by the current state of things.

 

As it has several other times during the pandemic, our research offers a deeper look into the mindset of American travelers right now, with the objective of helping the travel industry best address its customers’ most fundamental needs.

 

If you regularly feel an abundance of stress right now, you are among many other Americans: 47% feel a high degree of stress in their daily lives. Be it from managing distance learning for children to navigating extreme weather, Americans are a little likelier to be keeping themselves up at night and feeling tired than they were a few months ago. While stress is up, the propensity to worry about coronavirus, however, is down.

 

 

Our research also revisited Americans’ lifestyle priorities to see if any shifts occurred. Since April, and amidst rising stress, more Americans are reporting stronger prioritization of relaxation, finding joy/happiness, and—especially important for travel—having new experiences. Whether GenZ, Millennial, GenX or Baby Boomer, the generations are all in agreement on the prioritization of emotional well being, in addition to relaxation and finding joy/happiness. While staying safe from infection is also a top lifestyle priority across the board, it has nevertheless declined, most notably for Boomers, who have instead increased their focus on relaxation. Among Millennial and younger age travelers, escaping from stress and connecting with others are not quite as strongly priorities as was felt in August, instead returning back to May levels. GenX-age travelers are the likeliest to be prioritizing connecting with nature as they look out over the next six months of their lives. Perhaps of most importance, those who are already traveling (or ready to without hesitation) are far likelier to be prioritizing finding joy and escaping from boredom compared to other Americans.

 

 

With these patterns in both continued and shifting lifestyle priorities, openness to travel continues to bloom. As has been for the last month, over 54% of Americans identify with being in a “ready to travel” mindset versus needing more time. American travelers’ level of excitement for learning about new travel experiences or destinations to visit is at a pandemic-period high—one last (and only other time) obtained at the end of May, at the start of the summer season.

 

 

Unlike early on in the pandemic, now less than 50% of American travelers consider staying in a hotel, Airbnb or home rental, dining in a restaurant, visiting an amusement park or other outdoor attraction, recreating outdoors and shopping to be unsafe. Overall perceptions of travel’s safety remain at the lowest levels they have been during the pandemic. Over half of American travelers continue to say they are at least somewhat confident they can travel safely in this environment. Now just 37% agree they need a vaccine to travel, down from a high of 45% at the start of August.

 

 

With these growing feelings of safety surrounding travel, less Americans are saying they are going to change the types of travel destinations they choose to visit post-pandemic. In April nearly 40% of American travelers agreed they would change the destinations they traveled to, now less than 20% do—a 50% decrease. In addition, among those that are saying they will change the types of destinations they choose to visit, more positive reasons are being offered up as to why than in prior months, including an increased willingness to explore new destinations and crossing places off their bucket lists.

 

 

Finally, Americans are also less likely to feel their leisure travel will be dampened by the current state of things. This week, 56.8% agreed that if they were to travel now for leisure, they would not be able to fully enjoy it, down from 60.5% at the end of July. And now just 43.1% have some agreement with the statement “I have lost my interest in/taste for traveling for the time being,” down from 49.5%.

 

 

A complimentary report of these key findings is available for you to download and share.
You can register for our online presentation of these findings Tuesday at 11:00am EST.
We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers. If you would like further and deeper insights from the complete study, you can learn more here. Please consider donating or purchasing to support this research.
To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.
If you need shareable graphics, content for presentations, video presentations and more, please visit our COVID-19 Insights Media page here.

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of September 14th

Although the ongoing pandemic has increased travel budget consciousness, lessening concerns about the virus has more Americans planning trips and improved confidence that travel can be done safely. Meanwhile 44% of American travelers say they would take an approved COVID-19 vaccine.

 

 

IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15th, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and explored a variety of topics. The findings presented below represent data collected September 11th-13th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Health and personal financial concerns, while still strong, remain the lowest they have been during the pandemic.
  • This lessening of fear has translated to travel. The average rating of travel activities as “unsafe” continued to fall this week to the lowest levels they have been since March 15. Over 30.0% of American travelers are confident they can travel safely in the current environment, another 24.0% feel at least somewhat confident.
  • There thus has been a measured rise in the number of American travelers who are planning travel: this week, 78.3% report they have at least tentative trip plans. The percent of those in a “ready to travel” mindset is at a pandemic-period high.
  • There remains opportunity for the travel industry to work together to improve safety perceptions around travel: Among those who traveled by commercial airline this past summer, 52.8% report feeling unsafe against COVID-19 at some point(s) during their flight. Such feelings were not as widespread while at lodging properties, but still 27.7% report feeling unsafe against the virus sometime during their stay.
  • The pandemic did appear to mute the economic impact potential of the travel that occurred this past summer. Over 56% said they decreased their spending on these trips to some degree, and 42.3% said they were more budget conscious.
  • One-in-five of American travelers report taking a staycation this summer. While over 60 percent said the staycation was mainly staying at home, two-thirds report doing at least one activity, such as day trips to area attractions and going to restaurants.
  • When it comes to a COVID-19 vaccine, 44.1% of American travelers said they would take it, although for the majority, some waiting period is preferred. Those who are currently less ready to travel are more willing to take the vaccine.

Pessimism still outweighs optimism about the pandemic’s course in America, but has stabilized over the last three weeks. Health concerns, while strong, remain the lowest they have been during the pandemic. And while we can’t shake our highly elevated fears of the virus’ impact on the national economy, concerns about the virus’ impact on personal finances are their lowest level since the pandemic began. This lessening of fear has translated to travel. The average rating of travel activities as “unsafe” continued to fall this week to the lowest levels they have been since March 15. Over 30.0% of American travelers are confident they can travel safely in the current environment, another 24.0% feel at least somewhat confident.

 

 

There thus has been a measured rise in the number of American travelers who are planning travel: this week, 78.3% report they have at least tentative trip plans—up from 75% last week. In fact, 37.0% now agree they will be traveling this Fall season—up 5% from last week and returning to mid-June levels. Excitement to travel in the near-term and openness to inspiration continue to grow. Those in a “ready to travel” mindset is at a pandemic-period high.

 

 

Nevertheless, in continuing to learn from the experiences of those who traveled during the pandemic summer, there is opportunity for the travel industry to work together to improve safety perceptions around travel—especially since the taking of trips inspires more confidence travel can be done safely. Among those who traveled by commercial airline this past summer, 52.8% report feeling unsafe against COVID-19 at some point(s) during their flight. Such feelings were not as widespread while at lodging properties, but still 27.7% report feeling unsafe against the virus sometime during their stay. Summer travelers most commonly saw masked and gloved employees, floor markings and other encouragements for social distancing at the lodging properties they stayed at this summer, however there was less observation of some of the top protocols travelers expressed they wanted lodging properties to adopt in the wake of COVID-19, such as providing guests with well-explained cleanliness protocols, masks, wipes and sanitizer.

 

 

While it is a positive sign for the travel industry that well over a third of American travelers took trips this past summer, the pandemic did appear to mute the economic impact potential of this travel. Trip activities seemed more limited or favoring free. Over 56.0% of these travelers said they decreased their spending on these trips to some degree, and 42.3% said they were more budget conscious.

 

 

One-in-five of American travelers report taking a staycation this summer, primarily because of COVID-19 concerns (57.2%) rather than an affinity for them (27.0%) or budget reasons (25.7%). While over 60 percent said the staycation was mainly staying at home, two-thirds report doing at least one activity, such as day trips to area attractions (28.0%) and going to restaurants (26.5%).

 

 

When it comes to a COVID-19 vaccine—at least one that is developed within the next several months—44.1% of American travelers said they would take it, although for the majority, some waiting period is preferred. Those who are currently less ready to travel are more willing to take the vaccine (49.7%).

 

 

A complimentary report of these key findings is available for you to download and share.
You can register for our online presentation of these findings Tuesday at 11:00am EST.
We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers. If you would like further and deeper insights from the complete study, you can learn more here. Please consider donating or purchasing to support this research.
To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.
If you need shareable graphics, content for presentations, video presentations and more, please visit our COVID-19 Insights Media page here.

What We Learned from Travelers in the Pandemic Summer

Despite record levels of health and financial concerns caused by COVID-19, over one-third of American travelers took a trip in the summer of 2020. During our industry update webinar on September 8th, Destination Analysts’ President and CEO, Erin Francis-Cummings, interviewed a panel of travelers who took a trip in the pandemic summer to explore what could be learned about improving safety perceptions and how the industry can inspire more trips.

Watch the video below for highlights from this discussion.
 

 

Takeaways:

 
Travelers faced shaming when sharing their trip plans. Summer travelers felt a certain level of fear, judgement and shame slung their way when they shared their trip plans with others, which has made them less comfortable and willing to share their current travel ideas beyond their close personal networks.

Strict and thorough practice and enforcement of pandemic related safety measures made these travelers feel safer. Visible mask wearing and social distancing among the public made travelers feel they could keep safe from COVID-19 during their summer trips. However, there was observation of unsafe behavior and environments. “Family-friendly” environments are perceived to enforce stricter guidelines compared to adults-only places such as bars and nightclubs, which are viewed to be more lax in safety protocols enforcement and more tolerant of poor pandemic etiquette. Hearing from others that safety regulations are being enforced boosts confidence.

Travel brought a respite from the stress of the pandemic. These summer travelers reported having moments of serenity in which they felt like everything was back to normal. The travel itself was even normal-seeming, albeit with less people and amenities available.

Travelers are spending less money on their trips, largely due to the unavailability of amenities they normally spend on. With services like 5-star restaurants and spas closed, and many attractions, as well, travelers spent far less than normal on their trips.

While the timing of their next trips remains uncertain, these travelers are still doing travel research online or asking for recommendations from friends and family. In fact, the anticipation of less travelers and less crowds further motivates them to take their next trip.

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of September 7th

Over one-third of American travelers took a leisure trip in the Summer of COVID-19, with these trips providing a net increase in confidence that travel can be done safely right now. Meanwhile, based on American corporate workers anticipations, a full return to business travel may not be until April or later.

 

 

IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15th, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and explored a variety of topics. The findings presented below represent data collected September 4th-6th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Americans’ near term outlook on the pandemic is largely unchanged from last week, meaning pessimism remains in retreat. Strong concerns for COVID-19’s impact on personal health and financial safety are at or near the lowest levels recorded in the past 26 weeks.
  • Perceptions of travel activities’ safety—while still far from ideal—are the best they have been since the onset of the pandemic. Among the most confident they can travel safely right now are younger travelers and those in the South.
  • Over half of American travelers remain in a “ready to travel” versus “need more time” mindset and 75% continue to report that they have at least tentative trip plans.
  • The proportion comfortable with tourists visiting their own communities is among the highest it has been during the pandemic.
  • 13.0% of American travelers reported taking a trip for Labor Day, slightly lower than July Fourth (16.5%).
  • Over one-third of American travelers reports they took a leisure trip this past summer, with beaches and rural areas the most popular destinations. Over 80% of these travelers stayed overnight on these leisure trips, largely in friends/relatives homes and hotels, and over two-thirds said they researched the coronavirus-related rules and regulations in their trip destination.
  • Overall these summer trips provided a net increase in confidence that travel can be done safely right now.
  • 24.2% of American travelers who work for companies in which employees travel for business say that this travel has started again. Of those not yet back to business travel, a quarter anticipate this travel to return in January, but nearly half expect that it will be April or later.
  • Looking at how more (safe) travel can be inspired, online content, email, search engine marketing and social media are seemingly particularly effective.

Americans’ near term outlook on the pandemic is largely unchanged from last week, meaning pessimism remains in retreat. This week, 39.3% of American travelers think the pandemic situation will get worse in the United States in the next month (down 16 percentage points from one month ago), 38.1% think it will stay the same, and 22.6% think it will get better. Strong concerns for COVID-19’s impact on personal health and financial safety are at or near the lowest levels recorded in the past 26 weeks.

 

 

When it comes to travel, perceptions of travel activities’ safety—while still far from ideal—are the best they have been since the onset of the pandemic. Among the most confident they can travel safely right now are younger travelers and those in the South. Over half of all American travelers remain in a “ready to travel” versus “need more time” mindset, and 75% continue to report that they have at least tentative trip plans right now. Openness to travel inspiration improved again this week. In addition, the proportion comfortable with tourists visiting their own communities is among the highest it has been during the pandemic.

 

 

Looking back on the pandemic summer, over one-third (34.9%) of American travelers reports taking a leisure trip between June 1st and Labor Day (far fewer traveled for business or conferences). Over 80% of these travelers stayed overnight on these leisure trips, largely in friends/relatives homes and hotels but also in several other types of accommodations. As they had been expressing was their aspiration for months, beaches and rural areas were the most popular destinations. These trips were most commonly planned using online travel content, the opinions of friends and family, printed visitor guides and other social media content. Over two-thirds of these travelers said they researched the coronavirus-related rules and regulations in their trip destination.

 

 

July saw the highest percentage of Americans reporting travel this past summer season. Indeed, of the three national holidays since the onset of the pandemic, the Fourth of July had the highest reported rate of travel.

 

 

While some of these travelers reported feeling unsafe at times, overall these summer trips provided a net increase in confidence that travel can be done safely right now.

 

 

In looking at when corporate travel might catch up to leisure travel, 24.2% of American travelers who work for companies in which employees travel for business say that this travel has started again. Of the three-quarters whose companies are not yet back to business travel, less than 10% have announced a timeline for return. While a quarter anticipate their company’s business travel to return in January, nearly half expect that it will be in April or later.

 

 

Looking at how more (safe) travel can be inspired, American travelers—particularly younger ones—are receptive to travel messaging in many channels, with online content, email, search engine marketing and social media seemingly particularly effective.

 

 

A complimentary report of these key findings is available for you to download and share.
You can register for our online presentation of these findings Tuesday at 11:00am EST.
We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers. If you would like further and deeper insights from the complete study, you can learn more here. Please consider donating or purchasing to support this research.
To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.
If you need shareable graphics, content for presentations, video presentations and more, please visit our COVID-19 Insights Media page here.

How Were Americans Traveling Prior to Coronavirus?

 

Destination Analysts’ quarterly The State of the American Traveler Study has tracked American traveler sentiment, behaviors and opinions since 2006. The January 2020 Destinations Edition captured how Americans were thinking about and approaching travel before the onset of COVID-19. Read below for how much Americans were traveling and to which destinations, with whom they were traveling, where they aspired to visit, and what resources they looked to for inspiration. You can find further benchmarks of travel sentiment in the pre-COVID-19 period compared to now here. To see how Americans are currently thinking and feeling about travel, please see our latest traveler insights and updates.

How Americans Traveled for Leisure

 

In the 12 months prior to January 2020, the typical American leisure traveler took 4.2 trips (50 miles or more away from their home for purely leisure reasons.) The graphic below describes how these trips were taken.

 

 

Top Domestic Destinations

 

The chart below maps selected top domestic destinations by travelers’ familiarity (size of bubble), appeal (Y-axis) and likelihood of visitation (X-axis). In January 2020, cities like New York, Las Vegas, Orlando, Los Angeles and San Francisco topped the destinations Americans felt most likely to visit.

 

Expected Travel by Destination Types

 

In terms of what types of destinations Americans were planning to travel to in 2020, in January 2020, 74% of American travelers said they were going to take 1.9 leisure trips to cities and metropolitan areas. In contrast, only 0.6 trips of planned trips were to National Parks.

 

Destination Inspiration

 

In January 2020, word of mouth–either directly or through social media–was the most relied upon source American travelers turned to for travel inspiration. Online media was on the rise and less were relying on offline media for inspiration.