Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of August 9th

As the Delta variant wreaks havoc, the backslide in travel sentiment continues, diminishing months of gains. But travel is still on the horizon for Americans, with over half of travelers expecting to take at least one overnight trip in the next 3 months.

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 August 4th-6th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Optimism about the pandemic has receded to a level last seen during the Winter COVID-19 surge. Since June 8th, optimism has fallen over 40 percentage points, reaching a year-to-date low of 20.4%. Instead, over half of American travelers now expect the pandemic to get worse in the U.S. over the next month. Americans feeling pre-pandemic normalcy has tumbled another 7 percentage points to 25.3%, after reaching 42.7% a month ago.
  • After months of steady recovery, confidence in travel’s safety now continues to decline. After hitting a high of 52.9% just six weeks ago, the percent of American travelers who feel “confident” or “very confident” they can travel safely in the current environment fell to 36.6%. Nearly half (48.0%) agree that media coverage of the COVID-19 situation has them doubting that it is safe to travel. Fortunately, the majority of American travelers still feel road tripping, dining in restaurants, staying in a hotel, visiting amusement parks and other outdoor attractions, shopping and outdoor recreational activities are safe; however, it’s notable that less than half now consider flying on an airplane, visiting a museum or indoor attraction, and riding in an Uber/taxi is safe.
  • Delta variant-related concerns are disrupting trip plans and making it more difficult to market travel right now. This week, a notable number of American travelers continued to say the Delta variant had caused trip postponements (27.0%, up from 25.4% July 26th) and even cancellations 23.0%, up from 18.9%). Travel enthusiasm overall has certainly been impacted. More than 54% say that the Delta variant has made them less interested in traveling right now. Those with high levels of excitement to travel now is down to 60.7% from 68.2% two weeks ago, while openness to travel inspiration fell to 54.1% from 64.4%. Travelers reporting a “not ready” mindset has climbed to 28.4% from 19.3% one month ago. These concerns extend to their home communities, as well. Those saying they don’t want tourists in town right now hit 41.9%, the highest it has been since Memorial Day.
  • Male travelers are feeling more positive. In our survey this week, those who identify as men report lower stress levels and a stronger sense of normalcy in their lives. Relative to women, they are more confident they can travel safely and exhibit greater optimism and commitment to their travel future. A key factor may be vaccination status. This week, 74.2% of male travelers report receiving a COVID-19 vaccine, compared to 58.9% of women.
  • More vaccinations will come. Nearly a quarter of unvaccinated American travelers say they will get a COVID-19 vaccine this year. Another 29.4% of these unvaccinated travelers say they are open to getting the COVID vaccine but need more information about it.
  • As we head out of the summer peak —and despite diminished enthusiasm right now —many Americans are still planning Fall travel. With the peak summer travel weeks in the rearview mirror and COVID concerns up, the percentage of travelers expecting to take one or more overnight leisure trips in the next three months has fallen to 51.5% from 63.0% July 26th. Meanwhile just 34.4% say now is a good time to spend money on travel, down from 42.4% two weeks ago, and Americans reporting travel as a budget priority dropped to 51.3% from 62.2%. And yet 75% of American travelers still did some travel dreaming or planning in the last week alone, with 23.9% reporting trip plans for September, and 26.1% for October.
  • Financial sentiment is steady. Over 44% of American travelers feel that their household will be better off financially a year from now. Just 11.3% anticipate that they will be worse off. Meanwhile, recent spending on leisure travel was strong, with the typical American traveler reporting spending $995.94 on their last overnight trip within the past month.
  • 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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