Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of October 18th

Just in time for the holidays, enthusiasm for travel is rebounding from the Delta-variant demise, nearing early Summer levels. In fact, despite the pandemic continuing to depress travel demand from reaching 2019 levels, the outlook for the Holiday travel season looks bright.

IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 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 from 1,200 American travelers collected October 13th-15th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Normalcy continues to return, as the impact of the Delta variant wanes. In terms of resuming leisure activities, fully 28% of Americans feel that the U.S. has a significant degree of normalcy, up from 24.7% the week of October 4th. This puts Americans at a Spring 2021 level mindset but not quite near Summer. These feelings of normalcy have increased most amongst Millennial-aged travelers (31.7%, up from 26.6%), but Baby Boomers are also feeling better (24.4%, up from 21.1%). Normalcy is also recovering across the U.S., particularly among those residing in the West (28.6%, up from 24.9%), Midwest (29.1%, up from 22.7%) and South (28.5%, up from 23.8%). Additionally, Americans are feeling COVID-19’s impact on their ability to have meaningful travel experiences lessen (down to 34.4% from 36.9% October 4th). Meanwhile, perceptions of travel activities’ safety made a sharp jump back up to 50.5% (from 42.1% October 4th), putting this metric back to Summer levels.
  • Enthusiasm for travel is rebounding, just in time for the Holiday season. Strong feelings of excitement for travel are up to 75.7% from 64.4% the week of October 4th. In addition, researching travel ideas and making travel bookings have both increased in the past week, fueled by improving expectations for the coronavirus situation (39.1% now feel things will get better in the next month, up from 26.9% just two weeks ago). When asked about their travel state-of-mind, 82.0% of American travelers are “ready,” back at early Summer levels.
  • Despite headwinds, it’s a bright outlook for Holiday travel. While not recovered to 2019 levels– when 52.8% of American travelers embarked on holiday-related trips—44.9% currently report having at least tentative plans to hit the road this season. This represents a nearly 17 percentage point gain from 2020 (fear of COVID and not wanting to risk the health and safety of loved ones remain the top deterrents to Holiday travel). These holiday travelers plan to take an average of 2.8 holiday-related trips (up from 2.4 in 2020), with Christmas the most popular inspiration (59.3%), followed by Thanksgiving (44.7%) and New Year’s (25.7%). There are also signs of increased holiday spending. When asked if they expect to spend more, less or the same for holiday travel this year, 33.7% of American travelers plan to spend more on holiday travel than they did in 2020 (up from 14.9%). Also indicating a potential opportunity for the travel industry, nearly three-quarters (72.0%) of American travelers reported that they would feel either happy or very happy to receive a travel-related gift this holiday season (up from 47.0% in 2020). And whether they are traveling or not, Americans are excited about the holidays (62.1% describe their excitement as at a high level) and 52.4% confirm they are more excited for the 2021 season compared to 2020.
  • Leisure and business travel expectations for the remainder of the year have increased. Compared to two weeks ago, more Americans are planning overnight trips in the next 3 months—both for leisure (57.7%, up from 49.3%) and business (14.7%, up from 11.8%). December appears to be the peak month for overnight trips in the remainder of 2021 (32.4%). Leisure (47.2%) and business (12.4%) day trip expectations for the next 3 months have also increased.
  • American workers are eager to take a break from the screen and get back to in-person meetings. Amongst employed American travelers, 44.3% said they regularly use web conferences to conduct business. Of these regular web-conference users 68.7% say they have felt the effects of “Zoom fatigue” and 62.8% agree that they are tired of web conferencing and are eager to get back to the in-person meeting experience.
  • Vaccination support continues to grow. This week, 77.4% of American travelers report being vaccinated against COVID-19. Vaccinated American travelers are feeling more confident in the safety provided by their vaccine (62.1% up from 52.3%). In addition, Americans are showing increased support for vaccine requirements on airlines and “no fly” lists for problematic passengers. Right now, 66.5% agree that airline passengers should be fully vaccinated or present a negative COVID-19 test (up from 60.3% two weeks ago). Meanwhile, 66.3% of American travelers support a national “no fly” list to protect airline employees and 49.8% say that establishing a national “no fly” list would make them more interested in traveling. Meanwhile, 56.9% say they would support an indoor vaccine mandate in their own community.

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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