During Destination Analysts’ April 14th presentation of latest findings from our weekly Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study, our CEO Erin Francis-Cummings interviewed a panel of travelers about if and how the coronavirus pandemic has changed where and how they will travel, including what was going to make them feel comfortable traveling again. While not a formal study, qualitative research adds such richness and depth to understanding about how customers think—something that is critical for brands and other businesses as they lead through and after the COVID-19 crisis. Thus we want to share what was expressed during this discussion to help further the industry’s knowledge about how traveling consumers are approaching their decision making.
These travelers’ perspectives have some commonality: looking to government and official resources for the indication and messaging that it’s safe to travel and come visit the geographic area they govern/lead, and an expectation that destinations and businesses will responsibly approach opening their doors—only doing so if it is truly safe for visitors. Interestingly, in our survey the week of March 27th, when asked about what they would use to plan travel in the next three months, American travelers largely cited official resources, with fewer stating word-of-mouth—a reversal from “normal” periods.
Responses given to the questions “What is going to make you feel comfortable traveling again? When will you feel good about taking these trips? What do you need to know or learn?” follow below:
“I think just following the news and seeing reports of things being deemed safe to open and both on a federal level as well as the case by case basis so I think it’s a combination of using our best judgement seeing when we personally feel comfortable ….and thinking are we comfortable being in an airport and on an airplane to first get to our destination? And then what it’s like in terms of air quality and in terms of number of cases. There is a belief that I have that this virus is always going to be with us but at some point it’s going to feel like it’s controlled and controlled to the point where it’s manageable—just as we would be susceptible to other things (when we) put ourselves into a new destination away from our home environment that we are kind of used to, so I don’t know if I have a magic bullet answer to when I would feel comfortable or what it’s going to take but it’s going to be a combination of things we know and things we understand. Talking to friends and family that live in the area, we are looking to travel to understand from them how many things are open, what is it going to look like when we get there and putting it all into perspective.”–Ella, New York
“I think there are two important things for me. I will feel safe when Disneyland is back open—that is our current metric in our household. I think lots and lots of people, lots and lots of interaction from the host to the guest. So that is kind of one part of it – the general test for the nation: Is Disneyland open or is it not? I think for me personally anywhere that I’m going I need to know that the infrastructure is in place medically so that if I personally get sick…I know that I can be okay. I think that’s understanding ‘Is access to ventilators a reality?’ That to me is the biggest concern.” –Jake, California
“I’m just waiting for more data to come out. I’m holding a lot of hope out for (cures). I’m hoping that is going to be more easily accessible so if I travel I could go into, let’s say immediate care, and just be able get a prescription for (a cure). That would give me more courage to travel. Also we’d want to see that every place is open too.”–Mary, Illinois
“I think a few things. A part of it is hearing confirmation from national, regional and local governments that it is safe to travel and also safe to travel to those locations. I’m wanting to go to Hawaii (after the pandemic) and part of that is confirmation from government officials saying yes we are ready for visitors, that we have the medical equipment, that yes we have different practices. I also want to see from the hotels that I want to stay at and other businesses that they’re ready, their affirmation. Part of it is saying they are ready for you and ready to take care of their employees. So that affirmation: ‘yep we’re back in business, we’re good to go and come on over. ‘…I just want that confirmation.”–Steven, Colorado