Welcome Summer! Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of May 31st

With COVID-19’s impact on American travel sentiment plummeting and summer travel demand healthy, the majority say they are ready for large events like concerts and festivals—especially if they are outdoors: Yet expectations for destinations to take pandemic precautions remain, both across the U.S. and among younger travelers.

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 May 26th-28th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Historic lows reached in COVID-19’s impact on travel sentiment: Americans concerned about contracting the coronavirus dropped another 10 percentage points in the last week and is now well below 50% (43.3%). Worries about the pandemic’s impact on personal finances (44.3%) as well as the national economy (69.3%) also hit historic lows. Now the average perception of travel & leisure activities as unsafe is just 25.9%—less than half of what it was at the start of the year. Lack of confidence in travel’s safety is now at only 16.1%, and just 24.0% would feel guilty traveling now (meanwhile, 54.1% said they absolutely wouldn’t). Avoidance of international (56.4%) as well as convention related travel (45.3%) hit record lows again this week, as well.
  • Travel-related bookings expand: With increased openings and capacity at major venues across the United States, the percent of travel bookers who purchased sporting event tickets for a trip doubled in the last week (to 16.4% from 7.8%).
  • Summer travel demand is healthy: Approximately 77% of American travelers report that they are taking leisure trips in the next 3 months. These travelers will take an average of 2.1 overnight trips this summer. Average leisure trip spending during this period is anticipated to be $1,691. Visitation to cities continues to return, with 42.1% reporting they will visit an urban destination during their summer travels, up from 37.8% last week.
  • Expectations for pandemic precautions remain: Over 70% of Americans who are traveling in this summer still want to see their trip destinations instituting at least one pandemic protocol, including mask requirements (38.4%), social distancing enforcement (35.7%) and capacity limits (33.6%), and will be researching this information in advance. Interestingly, desire for pandemic prevention protocols is not a function of the types of destinations they are headed to, but rather age and geography. While over 80% of Millennial and Gen Z travelers want some COVID mitigation protocols in place, Boomers are more split—60% want them and 40% say that none of these are necessary anymore. And those in the Southern U.S. are twice as likely than those residing in other regions to feel pandemic protocols are no longer necessary (38.9%).
  • Many are ready for large events, especially if they are outdoors: While Americans’ readiness when it comes to travel in general is at a record 77.9%, many, but still somewhat fewer, are ready to attend large events like concerts and festivals. Outdoor versus indoors is certainly a key factor. This week, 70.6% of American travelers describe their mindset around large outdoor events as ready. When it comes to large indoor events however, readiness is at 57.9%. And despite the relatively high degree of readiness for large events overall, it is important to note that 80% desire pandemic protocols in place at these functions, including attendance limitations and social distancing.
  • The relationship between desired experiences and destination choice: When it comes to what they most want to get out of travel, those headed to cities are relatively less interested in relaxation but most seeking great food experiences. Those looking to party and cut loose during their travel are likelier to be found in beaches, mountains and theme parks. Those heading to rural areas and small towns are more likely to be driven by the desire to experience new places and things. And, of course, those seeking adventure and exploration are likelier to be found in parks and mountains. Beauty is more of a driver for National Parks travelers than relaxation.
  • More are welcoming tourism locally: For the first time in the last 18 months, the proportion reporting that they want travelers in their community (33.0%) finally outweighs the proportion who do not (31.6%). Those that report they would be happy to see an advertisement promoting their own community for tourism reached a record high 57.1%. In addition, 41.8% said they would be happy if conventions and conferences were planned in their community this summer. Finally, Americans comfortable enjoying leisure activities in their home community is at a pandemic-high (66.9%).
  • We hope you had a safe and happy Memorial Day!

    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 each Tuesday afternoon. And please join us every Tuesday at 11:00am EST for a live presentation of the latest insights into traveler perceptions and behaviors.

    We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers.

    To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

    Have a question idea or topic you would like to suggest we study? Let us know!

    We can help you with the insights your tourism strategy needs, from audience analysis to brand health to economic impact. Please check out our services here.