Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of March 29th

Amidst financial optimism and an increasingly ready-to-travel mindset, many American travelers are saying YES to summer vacation this year.

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 March 26th-28th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • With new coronavirus cases rising again in the U.S., Americans’ concerns about contracting COVID-19 have also increased over the last 3 weeks, after hitting record lows at the beginning of the month. However, this anxiety has greatened in Millennial and Gen X-age travelers and lessened among the Baby Boomers.
  • As has been demonstrated by their sentiments throughout the pandemic, vaccination has the greatest impact on American travelers’ anticipated behaviors. Fully 82.0% say the idea of traveling is made more comfortable by receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. Two-thirds of American travelers have or will take a COVID-19 vaccine, and the majority continue to believe they will be inoculated by summer. Half of parents with school-age children plan to vaccinate their children when able, as well.
  • In looking at feelings about pandemic-safety in the post-vaccine world, American travelers still appear to believe in vigilance to prevent spread. Right now, 73.5% believe you still need to wear a mask after you are vaccinated. In addition, over three-quarters (76.0%) believe that proof of vaccination should be required for international travel.
  • Despite rising fear about contracting the virus, American travelers appear relatively optimistic about their financial future and thus their ability to spend on travel. Fully 3-in-10 American travelers say they are financially better off now compared to a year ago; 29.8% say they expect their income to rise in the next 6 months. In terms of devoting their income to travel, 38.9% say that right now is a good time for them to spend money on their leisure travel and 41.7% expect to spend more on leisure travel in the next 12 months compared to the previous year.
  • American optimism is even more prevalent in their travel outlook. A record 66.6% report being in a ready-to-travel mindset, nearly two-thirds report being highly open to travel inspiration and 61.4% exhibit strong excitement at the prospect of traveling now.
  • This increasingly positive sentiment towards travel can be seen in Americans’ current trip plans. Over 71% did some travel dreaming or planning in the last week alone, including a 2021-record 16.2% who booked or made reservations. Two-thirds of American travelers say they have trip plans in the next 3 months—yet another pandemic record.
  • Urban destinations also continue to show recovery, with a pandemic-record 41.3% of those traveling in the next 3 months saying they will visit cities.
  • Many American travelers are saying yes to summer vacation. This week, 62.5% report they are traveling for leisure this summer; this is up 26 percentage points from 2020. Summer travelers currently have 2.2 trips planned for the season on average, with July the peak month.
  • The desire to stay close-to-home appears to have retreated, as 70.4% of summer travelers say they will be traveling out-of-state and 8.1% say they plan to go abroad this summer. California and Florida dominate the states Americans say they are heading to this summer.
  • With new coronavirus cases rising again in the U.S., Americans’ concerns about contracting COVID-19 have also increased over the last 3 weeks, after hitting record lows at the beginning of the month. With older Americans prioritized for vaccination and a far greater proportion of them fully vaccinated, this anxiety has greatened in Millennial and Gen X-age travelers and lessened among the Baby Boomers.

     

     

    Hopefully, the increased anxiety will not have to last for a sustained period as the U.S. races to rollout vaccinations. Two-thirds of American travelers have or will take a COVID-19 vaccine, and the majority continue to believe they will be inoculated by summer. Half of parents with school-age children plan to vaccinate their children when able, as well. As has been demonstrated by their sentiments throughout the pandemic, vaccination has the greatest impact on American travelers’ anticipated behaviors. Fully 82.0% say the idea of traveling is made more comfortable by receiving a COVID-19 vaccine. In looking at feelings about pandemic-safety in the post-vaccine world, American travelers still appear to believe in vigilance to prevent spread. Right now, 73.5% believe you still need to wear a mask after you are vaccinated. In addition, over three-quarters (76.0%) believe that proof of vaccination should be required for international travel.

     

     

    Despite rising fear about contracting the virus, American travelers’ concerns about the financial impact of the COVID-19 pandemic have remained in a record-low period. Those with high concerns about the national economy stayed below 80% for the fifth straight week (78.8%) and those with strong concerns about their personal finances dropped to 50.1%. In fact, American travelers appear relatively optimistic about their financial future and thus their ability to spend on travel. Fully 3-in-10 American travelers say they are financially better off now compared to a year ago; nearly twice the proportion who say they are worse off (16.2%). A similar number—29.8%—say they expect their income to rise in the next 6 months. In terms of devoting their income to travel, 38.9% say that right now is a good time for them to spend money on their leisure travel and 41.7% expect to spend more on leisure travel in the next 12 months compared to the previous year.

     

     

    American optimism is even more prevalent in their travel outlook. Over 53% of Americans think the pandemic situation will improve in the U.S. over the next month, and a record 66.6% report being in a ready-to-travel mindset. Nearly two-thirds report being highly open to travel inspiration and 61.4% exhibit strong excitement at the prospect of traveling now.

     

     

    This increasingly positive sentiment towards travel can be seen in Americans’ current trip plans. Over 71% did some travel dreaming or planning in the last week alone, including a 2021-record 16.2% who booked or made reservations. Two-thirds of American travelers say they have trip plans in the next 3 months—yet another pandemic record. Right now, 42.0% say they are going to travel more in the next year compared to the previous. Urban destinations also continue to show recovery, with a pandemic-record 41.3% of those traveling in the next 3 months saying they will visit cities.

     

     

    Many American travelers are saying yes to summer vacation. This week, 62.5% report they are traveling for leisure this summer; this is up 26 percentage points from 2020. Summer travelers currently have 2.2 trips planned for the season on average, with July the peak month at 50.4% of these travelers saying they will vacation then. The desire to stay close-to-home appears to have retreated, as 70.4% say they will be traveling out-of-state and 8.1% say they plan to go abroad this summer. California and Florida dominate the states Americans say they are heading to this summer, although just 36.2% say their first summer trip is already very well-developed right now—clearly an opportunity for travel marketers.

     

     

    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.

    Respect & Acknowledgement: What AAPI Travelers Want from Travel Brands

    A personal reflection in response to Destination Analysts’ March 23, 2021 panel discussion with AAPI travelers, by Chingun Ganzorig, Research Manager at Destination Analysts.

    Note: Views expressed here belong to Chingun Ganzorig and do not necessarily represent those of other Destination Analysts staff or the company itself.

     

    Over the course of the past year, there has been a dramatic rise in anti-Asian attacks within the U.S. Stop AAPI Hate, the center that tracks and responds to hate incidents against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States, recently released a national report indicating that there were nearly 3,800 such discriminatory acts against Asian Americans between March 2020 and February 2021. For me personally, this figure, coupled with reading and watching news accounts of violence against Asian Americans, has incited both shock and trepidation. Sure, growing up as an Asian American has its struggles—like micro-aggressions and racist comments here and there that I swiftly brushed off, but I hadn’t experienced nor witnessed anything like these massive spikes in anti-Asian harassment and crimes.

    In the aftermath of the Black Lives Matter movement, we at Destination Analysts hosted a panel discussion with Black travelers about what the travel industry can do to market and make travel an equally inclusive leisure activity. We also spoke with an incredibly talented group of Black travel content creators to understand how DMOs and travel brands could learn from their experiences and work with them. These revelatory and very meaningful discussions were the inspiration for me to suggest that our small, mighty team of researchers organize a panel discussion with Asian American and Pacific Islander travelers. Our team decided to move forward with this panel at the beginning of this year, and the date we selected back in January just so happened to be March 23rd, exactly one week after the Atlanta shootings. While this could have been purely serendipitous, it would be an understatement to say that this panel discussion with AAPI travelers was relevant and timely. It was imperative. And not only was it imperative to hear these travelers’ perspectives and considerations, but to also convey a loud and clear message: AAPI travelers want respect and acknowledgement.

    You can listen to what these six AAPI travelers had to say and find our key takeaways from the discussion below.

     

     

    What We Learned:

  • Recent events have resulted in heightened feelings of anxiety and unease. These travelers shared mixed emotions right now, ranging from fear and rage to hopelessness and apprehension. Noelle from Denver, CO shared, “I feel pretty much on an edge. Anxious all the time. Every time I feel like there’s a little break to breathe, something else happens in the news that just strikes up my anxiety again.” There was also an expressed wariness. On top of looking out for one’s health and protecting others as it relates to the coronavirus, this extends to physical safety and being aware of “what’s around you and seeing another type of potential threat.” AAPI women and seniors are particularly vulnerable. Lucy from Irvine, CA is not alone in experiencing fear and added, “Being a woman, that makes a difference.” Steven, a Baby Boomer from Westport, CT, stated, “I also recognize I am slow. I am older, so I am not as quick to run away from these attacks,” such as the targeted attacks against Asian American seniors during Lunar New Year.
  • While these feelings clearly impact travel decisions and considerations, AAPI travelers agree that they would be most comfortable right now in destinations that both prioritize COVID safety and embrace diversity. Specific to the ongoing pandemic, much like all travelers, AAPI travelers want to see sanitizing stations, the availability and enforcement of masks, social distancing and access to testing. When asked where they would feel most safe, while there was multiplicity in destination types there was consistency in a mindset of avoiding potential race-based discrimination and attacks. Secluded areas offer the ability “to relax and have peace of mind,” resorts work due to the availability of security personnel and security cameras, cities have “a lot of crowds” and provide “safety in numbers,” while “outdoorsy people are kinder and nicer.” Regardless of the type of destination, the panelists unanimously agreed that they’re looking to visit places that are welcoming and inclusive. Places “where there is diversity and they’re embracing that diversity.”
  • There is a lack of AAPI representation in travel marketing right now. However, a sea change will communicate that AAPI travelers are welcomed and valued. As noted by Richard of San Francisco, CA, “You look at most of the travel materials and you rarely see Asians being represented in those promotional materials, except for shopping centers.” When it comes to representation in marketing, Asians are often ignored and taken for granted. From the perspective of AAPI travelers, depicting Asians in marketing materials (especially outside of the stereotypical shopper) “would go a long way to feel like they want us around.” Richard continued to share that “Particularly in this time where people feel like it’s okay to take shots at us, it will be nice to see that people actually value our presence and value us in the community.”
  • Respect and acknowledgement are critical in developing an AAPI customer base. And this can be as simple as sending an email, posting on social media or giving back to the AAPI community. There were suggestions for travel brands and organizations to send an email to their audiences with messages of support, such as “employees will be held to standards and racism will not be tolerated,” “we stand with you” or “thank you for being a part of our family.” Donations to AAPI organizations and Asian communities are also reassuring. According to Steven, he wants to patronize travel brands that demonstrate their support of Asians because “They give back to the Asian community and I think that’s a strong message.” Similarly, Noelle shared that seeing “airline or travel companies on my social media that promote the issues that are happening right now and promote us and equality makes me more inclined to purchase and support them financially.” Frankly summed up, in the words of Diane, “It all goes down to respect and acknowledgement. You don’t know how much it means to that person, to include them and have them feel worthy to even be acknowledged.”
  • As my own shock and trepidation fluctuate, I’m both relieved and comforted to know that I’m not the only one experiencing these feelings in the wake of anti-Asian attacks. A subtle way to let Asian Americans know that they are welcome is to represent them in marketing materials. A bolder way to let AAPI travelers know that they are welcome is to directly address the surge of violence and take a solid stance. There is much work to do in order to overcome this series of unfortunate events. Being pro-active and addressing current issues and events is one step towards making AAPI travelers feel safe, welcomed, valued, respected and acknowledged.

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of March 22nd

    Despite feeling safer and increasingly more positive, many Americans do expect a longer term impact from the pandemic on their travel, from spending less to sticking outdoors.

     

     

    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 March 19th-21st.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • New COVID variants, uncertainty on the current COVID vaccines’ effectiveness with such variants, a European third wave, and Spring Break rowdiness made headlines this week, likely contributing to a small but notable rise in pandemic-related anxiety among American travelers.
  • Those highly concerned about their friends and family contracting the virus rose to 71.0% and 63.3% of American travelers are highly concerned about personally contracting COVID-19. Such concern is higher among women, Millennials, urban dwellers, and those residing in the West and Northeast regions of the U.S.
  • Americans’ high concern about the pandemic’s impact on our national economy may play a role in their feelings towards tourism in their own communities. Among the 46.1% of American travelers who report they would be happy to see an ad promoting tourism to their town of residence, by far the most common reason for this is that it would help local businesses (64.8%).
  • Americans began receiving stimulus checks and travel looks to certainly benefit. 38.3% of those who have or are expecting a stimulus check say they are likely to spend some portion of it on leisure travel. This is even more prevalent among Millennial age travelers, who are, in fact, twice as likely as Boomer age travelers to spend their stimulus money on travel.
  • With nearly two-thirds both in a ready-to-travel mindset and highly open to travel inspiration, a 2021 record-high 73.8% of American travelers did some travel planning and dreaming in the last week alone. 15.8% said they made a travel reservation in the last week.
  • In each of the months from May through October, over 20% of American travelers report having at least tentative trip plans.
  • As Americans are feeling far safer with travel than they were just a few months ago, unlike earlier in the pandemic, they are including air travel in their plans. Right now, 43.9% of air travelers deem flying on a commercial airline as safe. Over 45% of air travelers say their very next trip by commercial airline will be by the end of Summer.
  • Despite feeling safer and increasingly more positive, many Americans do expect a longer-term impact from the pandemic on their travel. Nearly 60% agree that the pandemic has changed their outlook on life overall, with over 20% saying significantly. As a result, 46.9% agree they will put more effort into visiting places on their travel bucket list in the next few years.
  • Many in the travel industry have pondered a more permanent tie to public health—they may be on to something as nearly three-quarters of American travelers agree they will be more safety-conscious while traveling going forward.
  • When asked if the pandemic had changed their opinions about the types of destinations they want to visit for leisure in the future, 41.8% of American travelers said yes. For beach, National Park and other outdoor destinations, this is welcome news as 52.2% of Americans agree they will be visiting these types of destinations more as a result of the pandemic. Urban, entertainment and theme park-focused destinations will face greater challenges in the recovery, as 44.6% of American travelers report they are less likely to visit these places in the next few years because of the pandemic.
  • About four-in-ten American travelers expect they will be sticking closer to home and spending less on their leisure travel in the coming years.
  •  

    New COVID variants, uncertainty on the current COVID vaccines’ effectiveness with such variants, a European third wave, and Spring Break rowdiness made headlines this week, likely contributing to a small but notable rise in pandemic-related anxiety among American travelers. The proportion of American travelers that feel the pandemic situation will get worse in the U.S. in the next month rose over 7% to 18.5%, after hitting a low of 11.1% last week. Similarly, those highly concerned about their friends and family contracting the virus rose to 71.0% after being at a low of 65.4% two weeks ago. This week, 63.3% of American travelers are highly concerned about personally contracting COVID-19. Such concern is higher among women, Millennials, urban dwellers, and those residing in the West and Northeast regions of the U.S.

     

     

    Americans highly concerned about the pandemic’s impact on our national economy also grew, reaching 79.6% this week. This may play a role in their feelings towards tourism in their own communities. Among the 46.1% of American travelers who report they would be happy to see an ad promoting tourism to their town of residence, by far the most common reason for this is that it would help local businesses (64.8%).

     

     

    Also happening in the last week: Americans began receiving stimulus checks due to the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act. Over half of American travelers surveyed believed they would receive some payment from this legislation. Travel looks to certainly benefit from this injection of money into citizen’s hands, as 38.3% of those who have or are expecting a stimulus check say they are likely to spend some portion of it on leisure travel. This is even more prevalent among Millennial age travelers, who are, in fact, twice as likely as Boomer age travelers to spend their stimulus money on travel (48.4% vs 24.9%).

     

     

    With nearly two-thirds both in a ready-to-travel mindset and highly open to travel inspiration, Americans are dreaming, planning and booking travel at increasingly higher rates. A 2021 record-high 73.8% of American travelers did some travel planning and dreaming in the last week alone. Day-dreaming about vacationing and talking to people about their future trips were each reported by over one-third of American travelers. Nearly 30% researched travel ideas online. Meanwhile, 15.8% said they made a travel reservation in the last week; of this group, 57.0% booked a hotel room while 42.1% bought airline tickets. In each of the months from May through October, over 20% of American travelers report having at least tentative trip plans.

     

     

    As Americans are feeling far safer with travel than they were just a few months ago, unlike earlier in the pandemic, they are including air travel in their plans. Right now, 43.9% of air travelers deem flying on a commercial airline safe. Over 45% of air travelers say their very next trip by commercial airline will be by the end of Summer. For this next air trip, 42.0% report that they will be flying to a destination over 1,000 miles away for nearly a week on average.

     

     

    Despite feeling safer and increasingly more positive, many Americans do expect a longer-term impact from the pandemic on their travel. Nearly 60% agree that the pandemic has changed their outlook on life overall, with over 20% saying significantly. As a result, 46.9% agree they will put more effort into visiting places on their travel bucket list in the next few years. Many in the travel industry have pondered a more permanent tie to public health—they may be on to something as nearly three-quarters of American travelers agree they will be more safety-conscious while traveling going forward. When asked if the pandemic had changed their opinions about the types of destinations they want to visit for leisure in the future, 41.8% of American travelers said yes, to at least some degree. For beach, National Park and other outdoor destinations, this is welcome news as 52.2% of Americans agree they will be visiting these types of destinations more as a result of the pandemic. Urban, entertainment and theme park-focused destinations will face greater challenges in the recovery, as 44.6% of American travelers report they are less likely to visit these places in the next few years because of the pandemic. In addition, about four-in-ten American travelers expect they will be sticking closer to home and spending less on their leisure travel in the coming years.

     

     

    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.

    Spring Break and Safe Travel: Key Lessons on Managing the Visitor Experience

     

     

    There’s no doubt that marketing a destination is a complex undertaking. And with the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic, developing a successful destination marketing strategy came with added challenges. With a second pandemic Spring Break season upon us and a current 14.9% of American travelers who will travel specifically for Spring Break this year, we wanted to hear from traveler marketers from some of the most in-demand Spring Break destinations.

    As part of our March 16th industry update webinar, Katie Parrish, Marketing Intelligence Analyst at Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism, Leroy Bridges, Vice President of Digital & Communications at Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, Maria Henson, Senior Manager of Market Research & Insights at Visit Orlando and Terence Concannon, President & CEO of Go Lake Havasu joined a fascinating panel discussion led by Destination Analysts’ President & CEO, Erin Francis-Cummings.
     

    You can watch the discussion on valuable lessons about planning for visitors while pandemic safety remains top-of-mind and how safe travel is being marketed right now in this video and find our key takeaways below.

     

     

    What We Learned:

  • Balancing the visitor experience with safety requires DMOs to be proactive in engaging with different, yet equally important, audiences. Industry outreach is imperative for DMOs, who educate local businesses, partners and stakeholders on the programs that are in place to ensure health and safety. They also guide this key audience around preparation for the upcoming influx of visitors. Local residents are another important audience for DMOs to engage with. DMOs must take the initiative to show local residents the specific measures that are being taken to prioritize the health and safety of the community and gain their buy-in for Spring Break visitors. And when it comes to potential visitors, marketing gets the safety message out. Communicating local safety protocols and expectations of visitors, as well as delivering the message that travel can be fun and responsible in a controlled environment are essential to ultimately balancing the visitor experience with safety.
  • “We’re ready when you are” is an effective message in demonstrating the important work of DMOs. During our December 8th consumer panel about leisure travel in 2021, we learned that travelers want to be wooed. Gently. And DMOs are indeed doing this. Soft messaging around “We’re ready when you are” and “You’re welcome here” has been a successful marketing best practice for many DMOs, including Visit Orlando and Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism. Images of social distancing and wide open spaces, communicating current safety protocols and demonstrating what visitors can expect in-market have all been part of the larger “We’re ready when you are” message—a message that is very much tied to the DMO’s important work of making travelers feel safe and confident in their decisions to visit a destination and in managing the visitor experience.
  • Consider opportunities to reward good behavior. In the case of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, the DMO instituted the Rise to Shine Pledge. Potential visitors take the pledge to be safe and courteous during their trip and are then entered to win an ultimate beach getaway to the destination. The DMO developed another program in which its on-the-ground street team went around the destination emphasizing the importance of masking up, social distancing and doing the right thing. In turn, visitors who complied with safety protocols in-market were awarded with $25 gift cards. On top of efforts to ensure safety and gain buy-in from both visitors and locals alike, Visit St. Pete/Clearwater experienced the added benefit of positive media coverage.
  • Communicating the value of tourism is key to managing local resident sentiment. While appreciation for spring break visitors, and tourism overall, may vary from destination to destination, demonstrating the importance of tourism and its benefits is instrumental in fostering community support. In addition to showing local residents that they are a priority and that DMOs are taking responsibility to keep the community safe, showing the extent of the local economy that is driven by tourism—such as the businesses patronized by visitors and the jobs sustained by tourism—undoubtedly plays a role in getting residents on board with and supportive of visitors traveling to the destination.
  • Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of March 15th

    Americans appeared to respond to the nation’s vaccination vision with increased optimism and record-setting travel sentiment and expected trips for their 2021. Still, the travel industry cannot lose sight that COVID-19 continues to be top-of-mind, with 43.1% of Spring Break travelers saying they remain “very concerned” about contracting the virus on their trip.

     

     

    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 March 12th-14th.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • American travelers’ response to President Biden’s announcement of the vaccination vision for America was a record number saying that the COVID vaccines are safe, a record number of parents saying they will get their children vaccinated, and a record number saying they have planned a trip specifically in anticipation of vaccines. In total, 61.9% of American travelers say they have or will get vaccinated, up 5% from last week. Vaccine jealousy is a thing, too: 43.5% of all American travelers report feeling jealous of those that have already received their vaccine.
  • Americans’ optimism about the course of the pandemic is up a staggering 40 percentage points since the start of the year, with 60.3% feeling things will get better in the next month.
  • This optimism especially shines through in their feelings towards travel. Fully two-thirds are now in a travel readiness state-of-mind. Americans rate their level of excitement about travel this year a 6.6, up from 6.2 in just the past week. Americans set another pandemic record in their openness to travel inspiration, hitting 6.5. Nearly half can now be motivated by discounts and deals to take a trip they had not previously considered.
  • A factor in this growing openness and excitement towards travel is certainly an increasing sense of safety. A majority of American travelers no longer feel unsafe traveling in taxis or rideshares, visiting indoor attractions, dining in restaurants, shopping, flying on airplanes and staying in hotels. This week, 41.5% are firmly confident they can travel safely in the current environment, up nearly 5 percentage points since the week prior, and 17 percentage points since January 3rd.
  • Still, COVID continues to be top-of-mind and should not be discounted in travel messaging. As an example, 43.1% of Spring Break travelers say they remain “very concerned” about contracting the virus on their trip.
  • Over 70% of American travelers dreamt of or planned travel in the past week, and these actions look to increasingly be turning into trips. The average number of leisure trips Americans are reporting they will take in 2021 increased this week to 3.0 after hovering at 2.8 for much of the year. All months from June forward saw increases in the percent of Americans who said they had trips at least tentatively planned in them.
  • Fully 15.0% of American travelers said they made travel reservations and/or bookings in the last week, largely for hotels and airline tickets. In fact, 35.5% of American travelers say their very next trip by air will be by August.
  • In looking at what attributes are important to travelers as they consider cities as places to visit, safety still remains largely on top, with 74.3% saying this is important. A relaxing environment, good weather, welcoming atmosphere, ease in getting around and scenic beauty are also most critical.
  • Where the pandemic is still most challenging the experiences travelers typically seek from urban destinations is in sports, festivals, performing arts and other live events, but other tenets such as museums and dining scene are also still seen as challenged.
  • Americans are returning to a comfort with tourism closer to home. A pandemic-record 52.1% now feel comfortable going out for leisure activities within their own community. While 46.9% of Americans still agree they don’t want tourists in their own community yet, this is down 12 percentage points since the start of the year. Another pandemic record 47.7% said they would be happy if they saw an ad promoting their community for tourism when safe, up from 35.1% January 3rd.
  •  
    This week President Biden announced that states should execute vaccination plans which allow every American adult to be eligible for inoculation from COVID-19 by May 1st, and a vision that the July 4th holiday will be one celebrated in togetherness. American travelers’ response was a record number saying that the COVID vaccines are safe (70.9%), a record number of parents saying they will get their children vaccinated (55.2%) and a record number saying they have planned a trip specifically in anticipation of vaccines (42.9%). In total, 61.9% of American travelers say they have or will get vaccinated, up 5% from last week. Among those that have not yet received their shot, nearly 60% expect they will by July. Vaccine jealousy is a thing, too: 43.5% of all American travelers report feeling jealous of those that have already received their vaccine, including 51.2% of Millennials.

     

     

    Americans’ optimism about the course of the pandemic is up a staggering 40 percentage points since the start of the year, with 60.3% feeling things will get better in the next month. This optimism especially shines through in their feelings towards travel. Fully two-thirds are now in a travel readiness state-of-mind. Americans rate their level of excitement about travel this year a 6.6 on a scale from 0-10, up from 6.2 in just the past week. Americans set another pandemic record in their openness to travel inspiration, hitting 6.5 on the 11-point scale. Nearly half (48.9%) can now be motivated by discounts and deals to take a trip they had not previously considered.

     

     

    A factor in this growing openness and excitement towards travel is certainly an increasing sense of safety. A majority of American travelers no longer feel unsafe traveling in taxis or rideshares, visiting indoor attractions, dining in restaurants, shopping, flying on airplanes and staying in hotels. This week, 41.5% are firmly confident they can travel safely in the current environment, up nearly 5 percentage points since the week prior, and 17 percentage points since January 3rd. Still, COVID continues to be top-of-mind and should not be discounted in travel messaging. As an example, 43.1% of Spring Break travelers say they remain “very concerned” about contracting the virus on their trip.

     

     

    Over 70% of American travelers dreamt of or planned travel in the past week, and these actions look to increasingly be turning into trips. The average number of leisure trips Americans are reporting they will take in 2021 increased this week to 3.0 after hovering at 2.8 for much of the year. All months from June forward saw increases in the percent of Americans who said they had trips at least tentatively planned in them. Fully 15.0% of American travelers said they made travel reservations and/or bookings in the last week, largely for hotels and airline tickets. In fact, 35.5% of American travelers say their very next trip by air will be by August.

     

     

    As we reported last week, our cities continue to show signs of recovery. Over one-third of those Americans traveling in the next three months will be visiting an urban destination. In looking at what attributes are important to travelers as they consider cities as places to visit, safety still remains largely on top, with 74.3% saying this is important. A relaxing environment, good weather, welcoming atmosphere, ease in getting around and scenic beauty are also most critical. Where the pandemic is still most challenging the experiences travelers typically seek from urban destinations is in sports, festivals, performing arts and other live events, but other tenets such as museums and dining scene are also still seen as challenged. These perceptions are likely to change as vaccinations increase and more reopening occurs.

     

     

    Finally, Americans are returning to a comfort with tourism closer to home. A pandemic-record 52.1% now feel comfortable going out for leisure activities within their own community. While 46.9% of Americans still agree they don’t want tourists in their own community yet, this is down 12 percentage points since the start of the year. Another pandemic record 47.7% said they would be happy if they saw an ad promoting their community for tourism when safe, up from 35.1% January 3rd.

     

     

    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.

    Recap: The CVB & the Future of the Meetings Industry—A Guest Blog

     

     

    We have had the pleasure of partnering with Miles Partnership and Digital Edge on our latest iteration of our meetings industry research, The CVB & The Future of the Meetings Industry: Marketing & Advertising Strategy Edition 2021.

    The findings from this research were shared on a webinar with Destinations International on February 10th and included an overview of the most significant and drastic changes meeting planners anticipate for the industry in the next few years, the desired role of destination marketing organizations in the meeting planning process, the marketing channels meeting planners turn to most, and the top components they want in destination ads.

    Highlights from the webinar conversation, written by Digital Edge’s Co-Founder, Mya Surrency, is available here.

    A full presentation-ready report and 45-minute video of our exclusive in-depth interviews of meeting planner professionals can be purchased here.

    A Travel Marketer’s Guide to Gen Z

     

     

    As a travel marketer, are you thinking enough about Gen Z? This generation of consumers is coming of age as travelers and could soon represent a significant share of travel spending—especially if our industry can get them hooked on travel (the way we did Millennials).

    Members of this generation were born after 1996 and are distinguished as complete digital natives who freely share their opinions on social and political issues. Like all other generations, they are heavily impacted by the global pandemic we are living through.

    To learn more about this unique generation of travelers and how travel can be marketed to them, Destination Analysts’ President & CEO interviewed a panel of Gen Zers in December 2020. You can watch the discussion in this video and find our key takeaways below.

     

     

    What We Learned:

  • Travel marketers should consider how Gen Z has been uniquely impacted by the pandemic. New to the workforce or currently in college, these travelers felt the sting of the pandemic on their economic opportunities and the young life experiences they knew they were supposed to be having. As one shared during our discussion, “I definitely have a lot of friends who have had to put plans aside because they lost their jobs.” Discounts, deals and experiences that align with what they would have been doing if it weren’t for the pandemic are particularly attractive. Travel can also be positioned as a mental health and wellness activity.
  • The pent up demand is real. As supported by findings in our ongoing consumer research, Gen Z is in a ready to travel mindset. Feeling armed with data that suggests they are at far lesser risk of serious illness or death from COVID, many feel “I’m ready to travel, I want to get out there, I want to do things,” and even “a lot more willing to take risks and will probably save the travel industry.”
  • They don’t plan to skimp on safety. Also supported in what we see in our consumer research, the Gen Z travelers we interviewed express wanting to do the right things when it comes to pandemic protocols, as they are concerned about spreading the virus to older loved ones.
  • They have a distinctive wariness of social media content. As is well-known, Gen Z consume media differently relative to other generations and are especially video focused. Having only really known a world with social media and so versed in it, it is fascinating that they therefore assess content on these channels with high degrees of scrutiny. Erring towards initial skepticism with influencer and brand content, like older travelers, they agreed that friends and family were their “most trusted assets” and that “word-of-mouth tends to be the most important and the most meaningful” source for travel ideas and inspiration. Brand building will take a different kind of work with Gen Z.
  • Buzz is key. The Gen Z travelers we interviewed did not seem focused on the “off-the-beaten path” genre of travel experiences; rather, when asked how they were inspired to visit recent trip destinations or why certain places were on their travel lists, it was largely social validation.
  • For more updates on Gen Z and other of the many travel segments we study, follow us on social and make sure to sign-up to receive our emails.

    An Anniversary We Didn’t Want

    A personal reflection on the 1-year anniversary of Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index, by Erin Francis-Cummings, President & CEO.

    Note: Views expressed here belong to Erin Francis-Cummings and do not necessarily represent those of other Destination Analysts staff or the company itself.

     

     

    It is Sunday, March 7th, 2021 and I just completed analyzing and summarizing what and how Americans are thinking, feeling and behaving in the midst of a global pandemic, for the 52nd consecutive week. For an entire year, our team of nine tourism researchers has implemented our system—like clockwork now—to execute the Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index, and ensure its delivery to inboxes by Monday at 8:00am EST. Each of us are individually contributing as our proud part in providing insights that we hope shine the light needed to recover and grow our beloved travel industry.

    There is certainly some profound happiness in this moment. It’s another week of pandemic-era records in positive travel sentiment. As of today, 17.3% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. I traveled recently, and the excitement and pure joy people felt to be out traveling with their families again was utterly palpable. It makes it feel like we can finally—and for real this time—start to exhale. And WOW! do we all deserve it.

     

     

    But our particular market research firm is not in business to sell you perpetual optimism; we are here to provide you truth. And the truth is that our customers are altered—changed in ways that social researchers like me are only at the very beginnings of understanding, because people likely are not conscious yet of these things themselves. Whether we want to address them or not (and let me be clear, I don’t want anything other than positivity for the travel industry—we are also not in the Chicken-Little business), there are potentially large threats looming. One of these that I’ve been thinking a lot about is business travel change. There are many, many professionals who have done their jobs, impressed their clients, and sold big contracts without having to meet face-to-face over the last year—I doubt that the executives of their companies haven’t taken notice of such productivity and revenue minus the travel cost. I have heard several of the pre-pandemic road warriors admit in secret that they really don’t want to return to the level of travel they were doing—my inspiration for directly asking business travelers this question this week. While I hope the tide changes as business travel more ubiquitously resumes and know no technology even comes close to replacing in-person communication—in fact, people likely revere it more than ever—many local economies may have to adjust to this more sustained loss of business travel. One of the other potential threats I am thinking a lot about is the rapid digitization of experiences that the pandemic situation brought to fruition. I just spoke with a reporter last week about the substitutive effect of virtual travel. While I have always believed—and still do—that virtual travel experiences can cultivate some profound inspiration and desire for the real thing (especially for anxious travelers that need more assurances), I also can’t ignore the sense that some tourism attractions and destinations are now going to have to work harder to convey that their authentic experience is worth being in-person for. I hope you will join me in thinking about these and other ways change has changed us, and Destination Analysts will keep studying them.

     

     

    Like I imagine many of you have also, I’ve been reflecting. Laughing at my naivete (telling my kids “it’s just staying home for 2 weeks!” , the February 2020 conferences in which we discussed if visitation from China would rebound in Spring or Summer), and being extraordinarily thankful (and also laughing) that what has ultimately transpired was not as bad as my middle of the night panicking about global apocalypse à la the show, Tribes of Europa. Like all of us, I spent hundreds of hours wreaked with anxiety. It is absolutely painful how many lives have been lost to this virus. Meanwhile, it felt like this industry we love—an industry that powerfully moves human connection and understanding forward—seemed to be violently crashing down. Then restarting. Then crashing down again (and then the whole sequence again). But the September 11th terrorist attack was early in my tourism career and thus I am fortunate to have learned that our travel industry comes together in magnificent ways under crisis—and that coming together is what guides us out of crisis. Destination Analysts’ founder, Dave Bratton and I both share the altruism that is so present in our industry. The decision to create and continue producing and publishing the Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index just felt like us doing what we were supposed to do.

     

     

    Finally, it is especially satisfying to see the broad recognition of how critical reliable tourism research and data are to the health of the travel industry. There is a silver lining for us market researchers that the world appears to have learned that sentiment—studied broadly and deeply—is an important measurement indeed.

    While today’s milestone is not one we set out to achieve, we nevertheless celebrate the community it has fostered. Thank you to those of you who have been along with us on this journey—we are grateful for all your kind words, your questions, your topic suggestions and your sharing of these findings with others that can benefit from our research. We are especially indebted to those of you who have subscribed and donated to keep this study going for far longer than we anticipated. Please continue joining us on our Tuesday webinar presentations of the latest travel trends, asking your questions, submitting your topic needs for our research to address.

    I hope to meet or see you in the not-so-distant future.

    Erin


     

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of March 8th

    Americans exhibit competing and complicated emotions around safety and travel—increasingly confident, dreaming and planning travel at pandemic record levels, as well as opening back up to urban destinations—but still largely leaning into pandemic measures and protocols. Meanwhile, the COVID crisis’ alteration of business travel may be with us longer than we may have thought.

     

     

    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 March 5th-7th.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • With Texas and Mississippi announcing the lifting of COVID restrictions in their states this past week, interestingly there was a very small bump in the percent of Americans who feel the pandemic will get worse in the U.S., inching up to 16.3% from 13.7%.
  • In response to the question “All else equal, if a state fully lifted its coronavirus restrictions now, would this make that state a more or less appealing destination to visit?”, about 45% of Americans say this would makes the state a LESS appealing destination, while over one-third say this would make the state MORE appealing.
  • Nevertheless, half of Americans remain optimistic about the coming month. Americans also continue to feel safer—the average rating of the more than two dozen travel and leisure activities we track as “unsafe” has fallen another 3% this week to 40.0%.
  • The COVID-19 vaccines continue to serve as a travel stimulator, with 37.8% who have begun planning or booking future travel in anticipation of the COVID-19 vaccine being widely available—up nearly 10% since the beginning of the year. However, there is also declining agreement that they will wait to travel until they get a vaccine.
  • While those who have received or plan to definitely receive a COVID vaccine express relief and excitement about it, when those who will not or are unsure about inoculation were asked their primary reasons for this, concerns about the vaccines’ side effects and that the vaccines were not adequately tested are most common.
  • Openness to travel inspiration grew another 5% and reached another pandemic record high—now at 60.6%. In the past week, a pandemic-record 71.1% travel dreamt and/or planned. 15.0% said they actually made a booking, largely hotels and airline tickets. About 84% of American travelers have trips at least tentatively planned, and there is a growing percentage reporting planned trips for May (20.3%).
  • Well over half of American travelers—54.4%—say they would be interested in using a Visitor Information Center on their domestic trips this year. In terms of their expectations for these centers, they largely want the traditional—recommendations from staff and physical brochures—with the pandemic principles of masking and distancing.
  • Urban destinations continue on their paths of tourism recovery. This week, 38.8% of travelers taking leisure trips in the next 3 months report they will visit an urban destination, outpacing rural and beach. In addition, several iconic U.S. cities are back on the Hot List of the domestic destinations Americans name as one of the destinations they most want to visit in 2021.
  • Almost half of those employed by companies with business travel as part of their operations report that business travel has now resumed—nearly twice what it was six months ago.
  • Of those who traveled for business prior to the pandemic, 49.5% feel the pandemic has or will change the way their employer does business travel—most commonly fewer trips overall (at 59.8%, up from 51.4% the week of December 7th). Perhaps most alarmingly, 53% of business travelers currently agree they hope to not travel as much for work as they did prior to the pandemic.
  •  

    With Texas and Mississippi announcing the lifting of COVID restrictions in their states this past week, interestingly there was a very small bump in the percent of Americans who feel the pandemic will get worse in the U.S., inching up to 16.3% from 13.7%. Nevertheless, half of Americans remain optimistic about the coming month. They also continue to feel safer—the average rating of the more than two dozen travel and leisure activities we track as “unsafe” has fallen another 3% this week to 40.0%. This a remarkable decline from a record-high 69.4% recorded the week of April 13th, 2020 and 57.8% at the start of 2021. Firm travel confidence is at a pandemic record 37.0%. However, we see the Americans’ competing and complicated emotions around safety and travel in their response to the question “All else equal, if a state fully lifted its coronavirus restrictions now, would this make that state a more or less appealing destination to visit?” About 45% of Americans say this would makes the state a LESS appealing destination. Yet over one-third say this would make the state MORE appealing; these travelers skewing Millennial males with children who reside in urban areas. For those responsible for tourism in their destinations, it’s important to note that those who find lifted COVID restrictions unappealing from a tourism standpoint skew towards tourism naysayers right now—largely agreeing they currently don’t want visitors in their own communities.

     

     

    The COVID-19 vaccines continue to serve as a travel stimulator, with 37.8% who have begun planning or booking future travel in anticipation of the COVID-19 vaccine being widely available—up nearly 10% since the beginning of the year. However, there is also declining agreement that they will wait to travel until they get a vaccine. With the clear importance of COVID-19 vaccines to travel recovery—and the announcement out of Europe this week about vaccine “passports”—we aimed to further understand those American travelers who said they definitely will not receive a COVID vaccine (24.1%) or remain unsure (19.5%). While those who have received or plan to definitely receive a COVID vaccine express relief and excitement about it, when those who will not or are unsure about inoculation were asked their primary reasons for this, concerns about the vaccines’ side effects and that the vaccines were not adequately tested are most common.

     

     

    American travelers are aligned on increased travel interest and activity. Openness to travel inspiration grew another 5% and reached another pandemic record high—now at 60.6%. In the past week, a pandemic-record 71.1% travel dreamt and/or planned. 15.0% said they actually made a booking, largely hotels and airline tickets. About 84% of American travelers have trips at least tentatively planned, and there is a growing percentage reporting planned trips for May (20.3%).

     

     

    As more Americans travel through and post this pandemic, will they be open to visiting physical Visitor Information Centers? In total, 45.3% of American travelers say they have used a Visitor Information Center on a trip in the last 5 years. Well over half—54.4%—say they would be interested in using a Visitor Information Center on their domestic trips this year. In fact, relatively few express being uninterested (11.1%). In terms of their expectations for these centers, they largely want the traditional—recommendations from staff and physical brochures—with the pandemic principles of masking and distancing.

     

     

    After suffering from the cancellation of convention and business travel in combination with travelers’ pandemic-induced leaning towards outdoor, rural environments, urban destinations continue on their paths of tourism recovery. This week, 38.8% of travelers taking leisure trips in the next 3 months report they will visit an urban destination, outpacing rural and beach. In addition, several iconic U.S. cities are back on the Hot List of the domestic destinations Americans name as one of the destinations they most want to visit in 2021.

     

     

    As urban recovery is linked to business travel, this week our study once again examined business travel behaviors and perspectives on if and how it will be different going forward. Almost half of those employed by companies with business travel as part of their operations report that business travel has now resumed—nearly twice what it was six months ago. Of those who traveled for business prior to the pandemic, 49.5% feel the pandemic has or will change the way their employer does business travel. The most common way? Fewer trips overall, at 59.8%, up from 51.4% the week of December 7th. Also up is the percent who feel there will be a reduction in travel group size and budgets. Perhaps most alarmingly, 53% of business travelers currently agree they hope to not travel as much for work as they did prior to the pandemic. Hopefully, for this aspect of the industry, these attitudes shift as pre-pandemic/normal patterns resume.

     

     

    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.