New records in American travel sentiment this week are sweet music to the travel industry in the march back to normalcy. This summer looks especially promising —particularly for a larger return to commercial outdoor attractions and events.
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 February 19th-21st.
Key Findings to Know:
As COVID-19 hospitalizations continue to decline after their January peak, Americans’ optimism about the month ahead soared an additional 5 percentage points in the last week, reaching another record high. Now 44.2% feel the pandemic situation in the United States will improve over the next four weeks. Meanwhile, just 18.3% (a record low) feel the pandemic will get worse, after topping 55% at the start of the year.
As we’ve seen throughout the highs and lows of the last 11 months, when Americans are feeling less anxious and more hopeful about the pandemic, this is translated into their perceptions of travel. In addition to optimism about the next month, other record highs in travel sentiment reached this week include: the level of excitement about travel in 2021 (6.2/10), a readiness state-of-mind around travel (60.2%), those who have received or know friends or relatives who have received the vaccine (62.7%), the making of travel plans specifically in anticipation of vaccine distribution (34.8%) and the proportion who will take at least one leisure trip in the next 3 months (52.9%). Welcome record lows noted this week include: perceptions of travel and leisure activities as unsafe (45.7%), strong concern about the virus’ impact on personal finances (52.2%), general avoidance of travel (45.3%), avoidance of conferences and conventions (63.2%), agreement that travel should be for essential needs only (48.7%), travel guilt (42.7%), and refusal to travel until vaccines are widely available (46.5%). Also of significance: Americans’ support of travel in their own communities reached important milestones in the recovery. Anticipated happiness with ads promoting their community for tourism reached another high (41.9%), while agreement that tourists in their community are unwanted reached a record low (48.3%).
Fortunately, the focus of the rapidly improving sentiment around travel is not just on its safety and accessibility, but true enthusiasm. When asked to use just one word to describe how they feel about travel right now, “excited” is what Americans largely cite. This feeling has become even more predominant since the start of the year and is in stark contrast to earlier periods of the pandemic in which fear and caution prevailed.
And as demonstrated time and time again, feelings translate to actions. An incredible 83.5% of American travelers have at least tentative trip plans right now. The majority of Americans continue to believe they will be vaccinated from COVID-19 by this summer, which we see reflected in the timing of their trip plans, including a notable spike in July and consistency in the months following. And as each week more Americans have been vaccinated as well as know others who have, more trips in the short term appear. The proportions with trips planned for April and May have inched up over the last month (including for Easter and Spring Break). Well over half of American travelers will take a leisure trip within the next 3 months, taking 1.1 trips on average.
With two-thirds having travel dreamt and planned in just the last week alone, Americans remain highly open to travel inspiration (6.0/10) and the potential influence of travel advertising. 56.2% have not yet taken any significant action towards planning their next leisure trips, and thus could potentially be swayed on decisions from the destination to visit to their trip activities. Even half of those who will be taking a trip within the next 3 months say that their trip isn’t well developed yet. Among the 12.3% who made travel reservations in the last week, hotels were far and away the most commonplace, with over half of these travelers saying they booked a room.
As we march back to normalcy, and with summer looking especially promising, what might the outlook be for public and commercial outdoor attractions and events? Interest in these types of attractions and events is certainly present, from National Parks attractions (53.8%) to outdoor concerts (31.1%). Half of American travelers expect to be comfortable at commercial outdoor venues and attractions by July. Among the most popular safety protocols Americans desire at these places are many hand sanitizing stations situated throughout, visible cleaning activity during operating hours and mask requirements for guests and staff.