Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of October 18th

Just in time for the holidays, enthusiasm for travel is rebounding from the Delta-variant demise, nearing early Summer levels. In fact, despite the pandemic continuing to depress travel demand from reaching 2019 levels, the outlook for the Holiday travel season looks bright.

IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel—specifically in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic—and explored a variety of topics. The key findings presented below represent data from 1,200 American travelers collected October 13th-15th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Normalcy continues to return, as the impact of the Delta variant wanes. In terms of resuming leisure activities, fully 28% of Americans feel that the U.S. has a significant degree of normalcy, up from 24.7% the week of October 4th. This puts Americans at a Spring 2021 level mindset but not quite near Summer. These feelings of normalcy have increased most amongst Millennial-aged travelers (31.7%, up from 26.6%), but Baby Boomers are also feeling better (24.4%, up from 21.1%). Normalcy is also recovering across the U.S., particularly among those residing in the West (28.6%, up from 24.9%), Midwest (29.1%, up from 22.7%) and South (28.5%, up from 23.8%). Additionally, Americans are feeling COVID-19’s impact on their ability to have meaningful travel experiences lessen (down to 34.4% from 36.9% October 4th). Meanwhile, perceptions of travel activities’ safety made a sharp jump back up to 50.5% (from 42.1% October 4th), putting this metric back to Summer levels.
  • Enthusiasm for travel is rebounding, just in time for the Holiday season. Strong feelings of excitement for travel are up to 75.7% from 64.4% the week of October 4th. In addition, researching travel ideas and making travel bookings have both increased in the past week, fueled by improving expectations for the coronavirus situation (39.1% now feel things will get better in the next month, up from 26.9% just two weeks ago). When asked about their travel state-of-mind, 82.0% of American travelers are “ready,” back at early Summer levels.
  • Despite headwinds, it’s a bright outlook for Holiday travel. While not recovered to 2019 levels– when 52.8% of American travelers embarked on holiday-related trips—44.9% currently report having at least tentative plans to hit the road this season. This represents a nearly 17 percentage point gain from 2020 (fear of COVID and not wanting to risk the health and safety of loved ones remain the top deterrents to Holiday travel). These holiday travelers plan to take an average of 2.8 holiday-related trips (up from 2.4 in 2020), with Christmas the most popular inspiration (59.3%), followed by Thanksgiving (44.7%) and New Year’s (25.7%). There are also signs of increased holiday spending. When asked if they expect to spend more, less or the same for holiday travel this year, 33.7% of American travelers plan to spend more on holiday travel than they did in 2020 (up from 14.9%). Also indicating a potential opportunity for the travel industry, nearly three-quarters (72.0%) of American travelers reported that they would feel either happy or very happy to receive a travel-related gift this holiday season (up from 47.0% in 2020). And whether they are traveling or not, Americans are excited about the holidays (62.1% describe their excitement as at a high level) and 52.4% confirm they are more excited for the 2021 season compared to 2020.
  • Leisure and business travel expectations for the remainder of the year have increased. Compared to two weeks ago, more Americans are planning overnight trips in the next 3 months—both for leisure (57.7%, up from 49.3%) and business (14.7%, up from 11.8%). December appears to be the peak month for overnight trips in the remainder of 2021 (32.4%). Leisure (47.2%) and business (12.4%) day trip expectations for the next 3 months have also increased.
  • American workers are eager to take a break from the screen and get back to in-person meetings. Amongst employed American travelers, 44.3% said they regularly use web conferences to conduct business. Of these regular web-conference users 68.7% say they have felt the effects of “Zoom fatigue” and 62.8% agree that they are tired of web conferencing and are eager to get back to the in-person meeting experience.
  • Vaccination support continues to grow. This week, 77.4% of American travelers report being vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccinated American travelers are feeling more confident in the safety provided by their vaccine (62.1% up from 52.3%). In addition, Americans are showing increased support for vaccine requirements on airlines and “no fly” lists for problematic passengers. Right now, 66.5% agree that airline passengers should be fully vaccinated or present a negative COVID-19 test (up from 60.3% two weeks ago). Meanwhile, 66.3% of American travelers support a national “no fly” list to protect airline employees and 49.8% say that establishing a national “no fly” list would make them more interested in traveling. Meanwhile, 56.9% say they would support an indoor vaccine mandate in their own community.

Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. You can also download recent infographics here. Need assets for a presentation or something else? Find all the presentation decks from our ongoing traveler research here—new decks posted on Tuesday afternoon. And please join us Tuesdays at 11:00am EST for a live presentation of the latest insights into traveler perceptions and behaviors.

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Travel Sentiment Is a Reliable Leading Indicator for Hotel Performance

Level of Excitement for Theoretical Getaways Predicts Following Month’s Hotel Occupancy

Guest Post by Chelsea McCready, Senior Director of Hospitality Market Analytics for Costar Group

Travel sentiment has been a hot topic since the onset of the pandemic. Hotels, airlines, tourism marketing organizations and hospitality investors are desperate to understand how potential travelers are thinking and feeling about travel amid the roller coaster of the past 18 months.

Destination Analysts is one of the travel research companies tracking sentiment data. Since March 2020, they have surveyed about 1,200 potential travelers across the U.S. on a weekly or bi-weekly basis. The study includes questions about travel plans, confidence to travel safely, excitement to travel in the next month, expectations about the coronavirus situation, personal concern about catching COVID-19, and more.

Many measures of travel sentiment move directionally in line with hotel occupancy, but excitement to travel has the highest correlation with hotel occupancy. The company asks: “Imagine that a good friend (or close family member) asks you to take a weekend getaway with them sometime in the next month. How excited would you be to go?” The share of respondents that rate their excitement as six or higher on a 0-10 scale is a reliable predictor of the following month’s hotel occupancy.

This measure of travel sentiment predicts that hotel occupancy will soften from August to September, then increase again in October. U.S. hotel occupancy was 63.2% in August, and preliminary occupancy through Sept. 18 is 62.6%.

One important factor impacting hotel occupancy that wouldn’t be accounted for in this question is group demand, which made up 25% of hotel room demand prior to the pandemic. Thus far, the hotel occupancy recovery has been driven by leisure demand. But when group demand starts to recover in a more substantial way, hotel occupancy may outperform predictions from this leisure-focused travel sentiment question.

Note: This article originally appeared on https://www.costar.com/article/355142599. The author, Chelsea McCready, joined Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Update webinar on September 21st and presented several more analysis of hotel and sentiment data. To watch the full presentation and download the accompanying files, you may do so here: https://www.destinationanalysts.com/webinars/september-21st-update-on-covid-19s-impact-on-american-travel-2/

Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of October 4th

Americans’ travel marketability continues to gradually recover from the Delta-variant damage but travelers are feeling more financial stress lately and some uncertainty about vaccine protection. Meanwhile, the reopening of the U.S. border to vaccinated international visitors is generating excitement for travel. And with the rash of poorly-behaved passenger incidents on airplanes lately, the concept of a national no-fly list of trouble-making passengers enjoys wide consumer support.

IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel—specifically in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic—and explored a variety of topics. The key findings presented below represent data from 1,200 American travelers collected September 29th-October 1st.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Although our indices show that travel marketability continues to gradually improve from the dramatic drop it took during the height of the Delta variant spread, Americans are feeling more financially stressed lately. When describing the current financial position of their household, the percent saying they will have money left to save this month dropped nearly 10 percentage points since September 18th to 56.1%. The percent who feel they will be better off financially a year from now also dropped 10 percentage points in the last 2 weeks, to 38.4%. Only one-third (33.5%) of American travelers report that it is a good time to spend on travel, down from 41.3% in just 2 weeks. Now fewer than half (48.7%) say that leisure travel is a budget priority, down from 55.0%.
  • A combination of the recent Delta-variant surge and seasonality, Americans have slowed their previous rabid demand for travel. With the Covid-19 data making it appear that the peak of the Delta-variant fueled surge is likely over, high concerns about contracting the virus dropped another 4% to 56.4%. The greatest proportion of American travelers believe the pandemic situation will remain the same over the next month (38.6%). Nevertheless, over half (53.6%) of American travelers continue to say that what’s recently happened with the Delta variant makes them less interested in traveling. And while 68.2% of Americans report travel planning or dreaming in the past week, back in June this was at 78.7%. Similarly, while 73.3% remain in a ready-to-travel-state of-mind, this was at 82.8% in June. In the past two weeks, the percent of Americans who report having trips plans in October and November has dropped another 4 percentage points for each month. One perhaps fortunate related impact is the improvement in resident sentiment towards tourism–the percent who don’t want tourists in town has dropped to 38.9% after reaching nearly half in August.
  • Some American travelers are not entirely confident in the protection their COVID vaccines are currently giving them, fueling a strong likelihood for boosters. 52.3% of vaccinated American travelers feel confident or very confident in the protection against COVID-19 their vaccination is providing them; another 34.2% feel somewhat confident. 13.6% of travelers feel varying degrees of “unconfident” in the protection their vaccine is giving them. As such, 67.8% of vaccinated American travelers say they plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine booster. Also, the recent progress towards COVID-19 vaccines for children ages 5 to 11 has made 32.9% of American travelers more interested in traveling in the next six months (Note: Interestingly, the effect is similar among those who travel with kids and others).
  • The announced reopening of the U.S. border to vaccinated international visitors is generating excitement. Over 30% of all American travelers—and nearly 57% of those who travel internationally—say this announcement makes them more interested in traveling in the next six months.
  • With the rash of poorly-behaved passenger incidents on airplanes lately, the concept of a national no-fly list of trouble-making passengers enjoys wide consumer support, and would even encourage travel. Nearly two-thirds of American travelers would “support” (23.1%) or “strongly support” (40.6%) airlines working together to create a national “no fly” list. In fact, the creation of such a list would make 44.9% more or much more interested in traveling.
  • Politics in play in travel. This week, 18.7% of American travelers say there are places in the U.S. where they feel they wouldn’t be welcome as tourists. 50.6% of these travelers cite political differences as the reason.

Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. You can also download recent infographics here. Need assets for a presentation or something else? Find all the presentation decks from our ongoing traveler research here—new decks posted on Tuesday afternoon. And please join us Tuesdays at 11:00am EST for a live presentation of the latest insights into traveler perceptions and behaviors.

We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers.
To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

 

Have a question idea or topic you would like to suggest we study? Let us know!

 

We can help you with the insights your tourism strategy needs, from audience analysis to brand health to economic impact. Please check out our services here.