Although three-quarters (76.0%) of American travelers reported that the COVID-19 situation has affected their travels since the start of the pandemic, over one-tenth (12.1%) reported that they are already traveling according to our weekly Coronavirus Traveler Sentiment Index Study. During our industry update webinar on September 22nd, Destination Analysts’ Founder and Managing Director, Dave Bratton, interviewed a panel of summer travelers who took a trip during the pandemic to explore what could be learned about their recent travels and how their experience affects their confidence in traveling safely in this environment. Here is what we found:
When a traveler successfully completes a trip, their confidence for future travel increases. In fact, those who are “Already traveling” have nearly three times the confidence level in their ability to travel safely right now compared to the average American traveler.
However, the virus was still present in their mind space while traveling. “The virus was always on our minds, we were doing the same things in Boston (travel destination) that we do in New York (home), wearing the masks, the hand sanitizer, staying away from people as much as possible so it was always on our minds but at least it was a different place.” Even so, these travelers still managed to have a “wonderful trip” and found the experience to be “restorative” and “fun.”
These pandemic-era travelers were not travel shamed by their peers per se, but did express feeling some post-travel guilt. “Nobody said you’re out of your mind to be traveling” but they were still hesitant to share and show off their travel experiences with friends and family. As word-of-mouth recommendations both direct and via social media has historically been one of the top sources of travel inspiration for Americans, it appears early re-adoptors of travel may need to look elsewhere to gain inspiration on where to take their next trip, at least until the coronavirus situation is more resolved.
When it comes to their choice of airlines, these pandemic travelers seek out companies that are taking extra precautions to keep their customers safe, such as keeping middle seats empty. “I have now sought out airlines that specifically remove the middle seat for my other trips that I have taken since then, so it’s definitely that experience that changed how I am booking now for future travel.”
Although traveling during the pandemic has increased their own confidence in being able to do so safely, they are not overly optimistic about travel readiness increasing across the American traveling population right now. “I don’t think things will change until there is an effective vaccine that has been widely applied to people, I don’t think the application will really start till mid 2021.” In the meantime it appears that these early re-adoptors to travel will continue to plan and take trips, while still being mindful of taking the necessary precautions to keep themselves and others safe while doing so. “With or without a vaccine you have got to keep living! That is the way I look at it.”