The impact of the Omicron variant on travel sentiment, trip plans and travel marketability are now measurable, although not yet at lows reached during the Delta variant period. Meanwhile, 30% of American travelers are still heading out for Christmas Holiday trips.
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 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ 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 collected December 8th-10th.
Key Findings to Know:
With the Omicron variant front and center in the news while the holidays approach, American travelers are feeling more anxious and less optimistic about the near-term. Those that expect the pandemic situation to get worse in the U.S. over the next month rose nearly 10 percentage points in the last two weeks to 42.6%, and about two-thirds now say that another significant wave is likely to occur in the next three months (another ~10-point increase). Belief in COVID’s long-term presence jumped to over 70%. Here is what our latest research found about the impact of the Omicron variant and the current pandemic situation on travel:
Travel Sentiment: While 76.0% of American travelers remain in a ready-to-travel state of mind, this is down from 82.0% October 15th, when this metric recovered from the Delta variant. In fact, well over half of American travelers say the recent news about the Omicron variant make them less interested in traveling right now. High excitement levels about a potential getaway in the next month has declined 3 percentage points in the last two weeks to 65.7%. Similarly, those highly excited as they look out over their leisure travel in the next year has fallen 4.1 percentage points to 67.2%. Openness to travel inspiration is at 59.7%, falling from 64.0% November 26th. In Destination Analysts’ Travel Marketing Sentiment Index, the impact of the Omicron variant is now apparent, although the declines have not dipped to the lows of the Delta-variant period.
Trip Plans & Booking: Right now, 30.9% of American travelers say that the Omicron variant has impacted their travel in some way—37.2% of this group saying they have cancelled an upcoming trip and 47.3% saying they have postponed–and among those that have NOT been impacted, 26.8% say it’s likely that they will be eventually. American travelers’ expected number of overnight trips in the next 3 months year has fallen from 2.7 to 2.0 since November 26th, while expected day trips has declined to 1.9 from 2.7. Fewer Americans report dreaming and planning travel recently, dropping from 70.8% two weeks ago to 64.2%. Nevertheless, about 30% of American travelers say they plan to take a trip over the Christmas holiday (similar to Thanksgiving 2021), up from 17.4% who reported they would take a Christmas trip back in 2020.
Safety & Normalcy: American travelers report a decreasing sense of normalcy this week and those highly concerned about contracting COVID-19 has increased over 5 percentage points to 61.8%. The course the Omicron variant takes could also potentially weaken confidence in vaccine protection against COVID-19. Amongst vaccinated American travelers, 60.5% report feeling confident in their vaccination’s protection against COVID, down slightly from 62.0% the week of November 29th. The average safety perceptions of travel and leisure activities is down from 47.5% to 44.6%, with taking a cruise, staying in a hotel, and going shopping showing some declines in safety perceptions. This week 33.9% say that their ability to travel is returning to or completely normal, compared to 37.8% the week of November 29th. Nearly 70% of American travelers say they will be more careful during their upcoming trips because of the Omicron variant.
Other Trends for Travel Marketers to Note: The average American traveler continues to report a sense of financial wellness. Nearly half say that travel will be a high priority in their budget over the next 3 months and the mean reported annual travel budget is $3,746.
Over a quarter of American travelers (26.1%) have used a Visitor Information Center in the past 12 months. 61.5% feel that it is “important” or “very important” for a destination to have a Visitor Information Center and another 48.9% report that they are likely to use this resource in the next 12 months.
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