An Anniversary We Didn’t Want

A personal reflection on the 1-year anniversary of Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index, by Erin Francis-Cummings, President & CEO.

Note: Views expressed here belong to Erin Francis-Cummings and do not necessarily represent those of other Destination Analysts staff or the company itself.

 

 

It is Sunday, March 7th, 2021 and I just completed analyzing and summarizing what and how Americans are thinking, feeling and behaving in the midst of a global pandemic, for the 52nd consecutive week. For an entire year, our team of nine tourism researchers has implemented our system—like clockwork now—to execute the Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index, and ensure its delivery to inboxes by Monday at 8:00am EST. Each of us individually contributing as our proud part in providing insights that we hope shine the light needed to make decisions that will recover and grow our beloved travel industry.

There is certainly some profound happiness in this moment. It’s another week of pandemic-era records in positive sentiment. As of today, 17.3% of the U.S. population has received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. I traveled recently, and the excitement and pure joy people felt to be out traveling with their families again was utterly palpable. It makes it feel like we can finally—and for real this time—start to exhale. And WOW! do we all deserve it.

 

 

But our particular market research firm is not in business to sell you perpetual optimism; we are here to provide you truth. And the truth is that our customers are altered, changed in ways that social researchers like me are only at the very beginnings of understanding, because people likely are not conscious yet of these things themselves. Whether we want to take them or not (and let me be clear, I don’t want anything other than positivity for the travel industry—we are also not in the Chicken-Little business), there are potentially large threats looming. One of these that I’ve been thinking a lot about is business travel change. There are many, many professionals who have done their jobs, impressed their clients, and sold big contracts without having to meet face-to-face over the last year—I don’t doubt that the executives of these companies have taken notice of such productivity and revenue minus the travel cost. I have heard several of the road warriors of pre-pandemic times admit in secret that they really don’t want to return to the level of travel they were doing—my inspiration for directly asking business travelers this question this week. While I hope the tide changes as business travel more ubiquitously resumes and know no technology even comes close to replacing in-person communication—in fact, people likely revere it more than ever—many local economies may have to adjust to this more sustained loss of business travel. One of the other potential threats I am thinking a lot about is the rapid digitization of experiences that the pandemic situation brought to fruition. I just spoke with a reporter last week about the substitutive effect of virtual travel. While I have always believed—and still do—that virtual travel experiences can cultivate some profound inspiration and desire for the real thing (especially for anxious travelers that need more assurances), I also can’t ignore the sense that there are some tourism attractions and destinations are now going to have work harder to convey their authentic experience is worth being in-person for. I hope you will join me in thinking about these and other ways change has changed us, and Destination Analysts will keep studying them.

 

 

Like I imagine many of you have also, I’ve been reflecting. Laughing at my naivete (telling my kids “it’s just staying home for 2 weeks!” , the February 2020 conferences in which we discussed if visitation from China would rebound in Spring or Summer), and being extraordinarily thankful (and also laughing) that what has ultimately transpired was not as bad as my middle of the night panicking about global apocalypse à la the show, Tribes of Europa. Like all of us, I spent hundreds of hours wreaked with anxiety. It is absolutely painful how many lives have been lost to this virus. Meanwhile, it felt like this industry we love—an industry that powerfully moves human connection and understanding forward—seemed to be violently crashing down. Then restarting. Then crashing down again (and then the whole sequence again). But the September 11th terrorist attack was early in my tourism career and thus I am fortunate to have learned that our travel industry comes together in magnificent ways under crisis—and that coming together is what guides us out of crisis. Destination Analysts’ founder, Dave Bratton and I both share the altruism that is so present in our industry. The decision to create and continue producing and publishing the Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index just felt like us doing what we were supposed to do.

 

 

Finally, it is especially satisfying to see the broad recognition of how critical reliable tourism research and data are to the health of the travel industry. There is a silver lining for us market researchers that the world appears to have learned that sentiment—studied broadly and deeply—is an important measurement indeed.

While today’s milestone is not one we set out to achieve, we nevertheless celebrate the community it has fostered. Thank you to those of you who have been along with us on this journey—we are grateful for all your kind words, your questions, your topic suggestions and your sharing of these findings with others that can benefit from our research. We are especially indebted to those of you who have subscribed and donated to keep this study going for far longer than we anticipated. Please continue joining us on our Tuesday webinar presentations of the latest travel trends, asking your questions, submitting your topic needs for our research to address.

I hope to meet or see you in the not-so-distant future.

Erin


 

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of March 7th

Americans exhibit competing and complicated emotions around safety and travel—increasingly confident, dreaming and planning travel at pandemic record levels, as well as opening back up to urban destinations—but still largely leaning into pandemic measures and protocols. Meanwhile, the COVID crisis’ alteration of business travel may be with us longer than we may have thought.

 

 

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 March 5th-7th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • With Texas and Mississippi announcing the lifting of COVID restrictions in their states this past week, interestingly there was a very small bump in the percent of Americans who feel the pandemic will get worse in the U.S., inching up to 16.3% from 13.7%.
  • In response to the question “All else equal, if a state fully lifted its coronavirus restrictions now, would this make that state a more or less appealing destination to visit?”, about 45% of Americans say this would makes the state a LESS appealing destination, while over one-third say this would make the state MORE appealing.
  • Nevertheless, half of Americans remain optimistic about the coming month. Americans also continue to feel safer—the average rating of the more than two dozen travel and leisure activities we track as “unsafe” has fallen another 3% this week to 40.0%.
  • The COVID-19 vaccines continue to serve as a travel stimulator, with 37.8% who have begun planning or booking future travel in anticipation of the COVID-19 vaccine being widely available—up nearly 10% since the beginning of the year. However, there is also declining agreement that they will wait to travel until they get a vaccine.
  • While those who have received or plan to definitely receive a COVID vaccine express relief and excitement about it, when those who will not or are unsure about inoculation were asked their primary reasons for this, concerns about the vaccines’ side effects and that the vaccines were not adequately tested are most common.
  • Openness to travel inspiration grew another 5% and reached another pandemic record high—now at 60.6% In the past week, a pandemic-record 71.1% travel dreamt and/or planned. 15.0% said they actually made a booking, largely hotels and airline tickets. About 84% of American travelers have trips at least tentatively planned this year, and there is a growing percentage reporting planned trips for May (20.3%).
  • Well over half of American travelers—54.4%—say they would be interested in using a Visitor Information Center on their domestic trips this year. In terms of their expectations for these centers, they largely want the traditional—recommendations from staff and physical brochures—with the pandemic principles of masking and distancing.
  • Urban destinations continue on their paths of tourism recovery. This week, 38.8% of travelers taking leisure trips in the next 3 months report they will visit an urban destination, outpacing rural and beach. In addition, several iconic U.S. cities are back on the Hot List of the domestic destinations Americans name as one of the destinations they most want to visit in 2021.
  • Almost half of those employed by companies with business travel as part of their operations report that business travel has now resumed—nearly twice what it was six months ago.
  • Of those who traveled for business prior to the pandemic, 49.5% feel the pandemic has or will change the way their employer does business travel—most commonly fewer trips overall (at 59.8%, up from 51.4% the week of December 7th). Perhaps most alarmingly, 53% of business travelers currently agree they hope to not travel as much for work as they did prior to the pandemic.
  •  

    With Texas and Mississippi announcing the lifting of COVID restrictions in their states this past week, interestingly there was a very small bump in the percent of Americans who feel the pandemic will get worse in the U.S., inching up to 16.3% from 13.7%. Nevertheless, half of Americans remain optimistic about the coming month. They also continue to feel safer—the average rating of the more than two dozen travel and leisure activities we track as “unsafe” has fallen another 3% this week to 40.0%. This a remarkable decline from a record-high 69.4% recorded the week of April 13th, 2020 and 57.8% at the start of 2021. Firm travel confidence is at a pandemic record 37.0%. However, we see the Americans’ competing and complicated emotions around safety and travel in their response to the question “All else equal, if a state fully lifted its coronavirus restrictions now, would this make that state a more or less appealing destination to visit?” About 45% of Americans say this would makes the state a LESS appealing destination. Yet over one-third say this would make the state MORE appealing; these travelers skewing Millennial males with children who reside in urban areas. For those responsible for tourism in their destinations, it important to note that those who find lifted COVID restrictions unappealing from a tourism standpoint skew towards tourism naysayers right now—largely agreeing they currently don’t want visitors in their own communities.

     

     

    The COVID-19 vaccines continue to serve as a travel stimulator, with 37.8% who have begun planning or booking future travel in anticipation of the COVID-19 vaccine being widely available—up nearly 10% since the beginning of the year. However, there is also declining agreement that they will wait to travel until they get a vaccine. With the clear importance of COVID-19 vaccines to travel recovery—and the announcement out of Europe this week about vaccine “passports”—we aimed to further understand those American travelers who said they definitely will not receive a COVID vaccine (24.1%) or remain unsure (19.5%). While those who have received or plan to definitely receive a COVID vaccine express relief and excitement about it, when those who will not or are unsure about inoculation were asked their primary reasons for this, concerns about the vaccines’ side effects and that the vaccines were not adequately tested are most common.

     

     

    American travelers are aligned on increased travel interest and activity. Openness to travel inspiration grew another 5% and reached another pandemic record high—now at 60.6% In the past week, a pandemic-record 71.1% travel dreamt and/or planned. 15.0% said they actually made a booking, largely hotels and airline tickets. About 84% of American travelers have trips at least tentatively planned this year, and there is a growing percentage reporting planned trips for May (20.3%).

     

     

    As more Americans travel through and post this pandemic, will they be open to visiting physical Visitor Information Centers? In total, 45.3% of American travelers say they have used a Visitor Information Center on a trip in the last 5 years. Well over half—54.4%—say they would be interested in using a Visitor Information Center on their domestic trips this year. In fact, relatively few express being uninterested (11.1%). In terms of their expectations for these centers, they largely want the traditional—recommendations from staff and physical brochures—with the pandemic principles of masking and distancing.

     

     

    After suffering from the cancellation of convention and business travel in combination with travelers’ pandemic-induced leaning towards outdoor, rural environments, urban destinations continue on their paths of tourism recovery. This week, 38.8% of travelers taking leisure trips in the next 3 months report they will visit an urban destination, outpacing rural and beach. In addition, several iconic U.S. cities are back on the Hot List of the domestic destinations Americans name as one of the destinations they most want to visit in 2021.

     

     

    As urban recovery is linked to business travel, this week our study once again examined business travel behaviors and perspectives on if and how it will be different going forward. Almost half of those employed by companies with business travel as part of their operations report that business travel has now resumed—nearly twice what it was six months ago. Of those who traveled for business prior to the pandemic, 49.5% feel the pandemic has or will change the way their employer does business travel. The most common way? Fewer trips overall, at 59.8%, up from 51.4% the week of December 7th. Also up is the percent who feel there will be a reduction in travel group size and budgets. Perhaps most alarmingly, 53% of business travelers currently agree they hope to not travel as much for work as they did prior to the pandemic. Hopefully, for this aspect of the industry, these attitudes shift as pre-pandemic/normal patterns resume.

     

     

    A complimentary report of these key findings is available for you to download and share.
    You can register for our online presentation of these findings Tuesday at 11:00am EST.
    We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers. If you would like further and deeper insights from the complete study, you can learn more here. Please consider donating or purchasing to support this research.
    To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of February 28th

    Americans’ positivity towards travel reached more pandemic-era peaks as travel plans for even the next few months slowly but surely grow. In a sign of confidence about travel’s safety, Americans traveling for Spring Break look to be prioritizing new destinations for these trips. Most Americans, however, believe mask-wearing will be with us for several 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 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 26th-28th.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • It appears Americans believe that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting close. COVID-19 anxiety is at a low. Meanwhile, optimism about the course the coronavirus situation will take in the next month reached another record high, with 49.1% feeling things will get better.
  • Americans are feeling safer both at home and with travel. The average rating of the more than two dozen travel activities we track as unsafe reached another pandemic record low, at 43.2% unsafe. Although a majority still feel unsafe with international travel and conventions/large group meetings, the proportions avoiding conventions (58.5%) and international travel (67.1%) are at record lows.
  • Nearly two-thirds feel at least somewhat confident they can travel safely right now, and travel guilt fell to 39.9%.
  • Americans remain highly open to travel inspiration, and another pandemic record 63.9% are in a travel readiness state-of-mind.
  • 63.3% of American travelers have themselves or know someone who has already received a vaccine. In fact, over one-third of Baby Boomer travels report they have already received their COVID-19 vaccine.
  • Now, a record 36.9% of American travelers—including 41.6% of Millennial age travelers—have made travel plans specifically in anticipation of more widespread vaccination.
  • Trips and travel plans keep growing. Over 60% of American travelers did some kind of travel dreaming and/or planning in the last week alone, including 15.1% who made travel reservations. A growing percentage of American travelers say they will be taking at least one leisure trip in the next three months—now at 54.6%. More than 84% already have tentative trip plans for the remainder of 2021, with June through October the peak months for trips.
  • Lodging preferences for travel over the next three months appear to have shifted from the early pandemic period. When asked to imagine that they were traveling at some point in the next few months and if they would generally prefer to stay in a hotel or a home rental through a service like Airbnb, 48.1% had stronger preference for hotel—up from 41.3% in March 2020—while 19.8% showed a strong preference for home rental—down from 30.3% last March.
  • This week, 12.4% of American travelers said they have a Spring Break trip planned. Interestingly, over two-thirds of these travelers say it’s important to them that they experience a new destination for this trip. Half of these Spring Break period travelers plan to use an airplane for their trip and head more than 500 miles away from home. Beach destinations are, of course, popular, as are National Parks and rural areas. Luxury hotels appear to be the most common lodging option for these Spring Break travelers.
  • Looking towards the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, 71.3% of American travelers will continue to wear masks even after they are fully vaccinated. When asked to imagine how they would feel on their first post-vaccine trip if the place/destination/attraction they were visiting still required masking, 65.0% said they would feel “fine,” if not “great.”
  •  

    It appears Americans believe that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting close. COVID-19 anxiety is at a low, with notable declines in their concerns about contracting the virus and the financial impact of the pandemic. Meanwhile, optimism about the course the coronavirus situation will take in the next month reached another record high, with 49.1% feeling things will get better and just 13.7% feeling it will get worse. This is a marked change from the start of the year, when 55.9% of Americans were pessimistic and only 20.9% were hopeful about the coming weeks.

     

     

    Americans are feeling safer both at home—48.2% are comfortable going out for leisure in their own communities, nearing where we were March 15th, 2020—and with travel. The average rating of the more than two dozen travel activities we track as unsafe reached another pandemic record low, at 43.2%. Less than half of American travelers are feeling flying on airplanes, dining in restaurants, visiting museums and attractions, shopping and staying in hotels and other lodging are unsafe. Although a majority still feel unsafe with international travel and conventions/large group meetings, the proportions avoiding conventions (58.5%) and international travel (67.1%) are at record lows. Nearly two-thirds feel at least somewhat confident they can travel safely right now, and travel guilt fell to 39.9%. Americans remain highly open to travel inspiration and another pandemic record 63.9% are in a travel readiness state-of-mind.

     

     

    Looking at the COVID vaccine’s role in travel sentiment, a majority of Americans continue to say that the vaccines make them optimistic about traveling safely and life returning to normal in the next 6 months. 63.3% of American travelers have themselves or know someone who has already received a vaccine. In fact, over one-third of Baby Boomer travelers report they have already received their COVID-19 vaccine. Now a record 36.9% of American travelers—including 41.6% of Millennial age travelers—have made travel plans specifically in anticipation of more widespread vaccination.

     

     

    Trips and travel plans keep growing. Over 60% of American travelers did some kind of travel dreaming and/or planning in the last week alone, including 15.1% who made travel reservations. A growing percentage of American travelers say they will be taking at least one leisure trip in the next three months—now at 54.6%. More than 84% already have tentative trip plans for the remainder of 2021, with June through October the peak months for trips. While many trips will remain regional for the short-term, a quarter of American travelers will take their next commercial air trip by June. Escaping stress and spending time with family remain the primary motivators for travel.

     

     

    Lodging preferences for travel over the next three months appear to have shifted from the early pandemic period. When asked to imagine that they were traveling at some point in the next few months and if they would generally prefer to stay in a hotel or a home rental through a service like Airbnb, 48.1% had stronger preference for hotel—up from 41.3% in March 2020—while 19.8% showed a strong preference for home rental—down from 30.3% last March.

     

     

    With travel plans slowly but surely growing in the next few months, we looked at the outlook for the Spring Break period. This week, 12.4% of American travelers said they have a Spring Break trip planned. Interestingly, over two-thirds of these travelers say it’s important to them that they experience a new destination for this trip. Half of these Spring Break period travelers plan to use an airplane for their trip and head more than 500 miles away from home. Beach destinations are, of course, popular, as are National Parks and rural areas. Luxury hotels appear to be the most common lodging option for these Spring Break travelers.

     

     

    Looking towards the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, 71.3% of American travelers will continue to wear masks after they are fully vaccinated. Indeed, nearly half expect it will be 2022 before people will be able to safely stop wearing masks in public. When asked to imagine how they would feel on their first post-vaccine trip if the place/destination/attraction they were visiting still required masking, 65.0% said they would feel “fine,” if not “great.”

     

     

    A complimentary report of these key findings is available for you to download and share.
    You can register for our online presentation of these findings Tuesday at 11:00am EST.
    We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers. If you would like further and deeper insights from the complete study, you can learn more here. Please consider donating or purchasing to support this research.
    To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

    Let’s Celebrate the 15 Travel Sentiment Metrics that Broke Pandemic Records this Week

     

    With new daily cases and COVID-related deaths down significantly from January peaks, Americans are exhibiting more capacity for positive thoughts and feelings, especially about their travel. Exhale, give a thumbs up to a travel industry colleague and check out this summary of 15 positive pandemic-period travel sentiment records that were set this week:

     

    Positive Record Highs:

     

  • Optimism about the course of the pandemic in the United States in next month (44.2%)
  • Level of excitement about travel in 2021 (6.2/10)
  • Readiness state-of-mind around travel (60.2%)
  • Those who have received or know friends or relatives who have received the vaccine (62.7%)
  • Making of travel plans specifically in anticipation of vaccine distribution (34.8%)
  • Proportion who will take at least one leisure trip in the next 3 months (52.9%)
  • Happiness with ads promoting their own community for tourism (41.9%)
  •  

    Positive Record Lows:

     

  • Perceptions of travel and leisure activities as unsafe (45.7%)
  • Strong concern about the virus’ impact on personal finances (52.2%)
  • Avoidance of travel until pandemic is more resolved (45.3%)
  • Avoidance of conferences and conventions (63.2%)
  • Agreement that travel should be for essential needs only (48.7%)
  • Travel guilt (42.7%)
  • Refusal to travel until vaccines are widely available (46.5%)
  • Tourists in their own community are unwanted (48.3%)
  •  

    We’ve summed these up in this infographic so that you can share the good news! Don’t forget to join us online each week as we present the latest American travel trends.

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of February 21st

    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:

  • Americans’ optimism about the month ahead soared an additional 5 percentage points in the last week, reaching another record high (44.2%).
  • 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%).
  • 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%).
  • When asked to use just one word to describe how they feel about travel right now, “excited” is what Americans largely cite, a feeling that has become even more predominant since the start of the year.
  • 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.
  • 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 travel for leisure 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.
  • Interest in public and commercial outdoor 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.
  •  

    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.

     

     

    A complimentary report of these key findings is available for you to download and share.
    You can register for our online presentation of these findings Tuesday at 11:00am EST.
    We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers. If you would like further and deeper insights from the complete study, you can learn more here. Please consider donating or purchasing to support this research.
    To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of February 14th

    As anxiety wanes and optimism gains, Americans are feeling more and more love for travel—and the advertising that inspires their wanderlust.

     

     

    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 12th-14th.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • In total, 12.7% said they took a trip for the long Valentine’s/President’s Day weekend—double what was reported for Memorial Day weekend in the early pandemic period, and a similar rate to Labor Day weekend, which followed the summer coronavirus case surge.
  • Americans’ anxiety about the pandemic—from both the financial and health impact perspectives—continues to decline. Now a record 39.3% of Americans feel the situation will get better in the next month.
  • These better feelings translate to travel. Perceptions of travel and leisure activities as unsafe has fallen to an average of 46.2% —a record low since the start of the pandemic. About 60% of American travelers feel at least somewhat confident they can travel safely in the current environment, and those who would have travel guilt has declined to 44.0% from a recent peak of 54.6% the week of December 14th. Now 58.5% are in a travel readiness state of mind.
  • Vaccines continue to keep optimism up among a majority of American travelers. Nearly 6-in-10 travelers say COVID-19 vaccines make them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months and 52.9% say it makes them more optimistic about the ability to travel safely in that same time.
  • This week, 54.0% of American travelers report that they have a friend or relative who has received the vaccine. Seeing people we know get vaccinated against COVID-19 clearly benefits travel sentiment. Those who know others who have already been vaccinated are even more optimistic about their travel future and have begun planning travel specifically in anticipation of a wider vaccine rollout at higher rates than others. They are also more likely to have done any travel dreaming and planning in the last week, and have more trips planned for 2021.
  • Right now, 80.2% of Americans have plans for one or more upcoming trips, with July still looking like the peak travel month this year. While nearly a quarter of the next road trips Americans will take will be within the next 3 months, the majority of American travelers still anticipate their very next air trip to be after June.
  • More than half of Americans have taken some action towards their very next leisure trip, including researching destinations to visit (26.1%), booking lodging (18.8%) and researching travel activities (14.4%).
  • Advertising certainly plays a role in inspiring more travel. This week, 55.8% report being highly open to travel inspiration. Well over a quarter of all American travelers —and over 35% of those Millennial age or younger —say that an advertisement has specifically motivated them to travel to a destination. In fact, 38.9% say the last travel destination ad they saw made them feel “happy” or “very happy.”
  • Where American travelers feel most receptive to travel advertising varies by age, but websites, social media (particularly Facebook), both broadcast and streaming television, and email are common.
  • In addition to how they are feeling about traveling, how Americans perceive travel within their own communities is also critical to understanding the travel industry’s recovery. This week 44.3% agree they feel comfortable going out for leisure activities where they live. In addition, a larger proportion of Americans continue to say they would be happy to see their community advertised for tourism (39.1% vs 29.1% who would be unhappy). Those residing in urban areas are far likelier to feel happy about travel advertisements of their city compared to those residing in suburban or rural areas.
  • Read more below.
  •  

    Americans celebrated both Valentine’s Day and President’s Day…was love in the air for travel during this holiday? In total, 12.7% said they took a trip for the long weekend—double what was reported for Memorial Day weekend in the early pandemic period, and a similar rate to Labor Day weekend, which followed the summer coronavirus case surge.

     

     

    As daily new cases have dropped dramatically over the last month and vaccines continue to be administered, Americans’ anxiety about the pandemic—from both the financial and health impact perspectives—continues to decline. Now a record 39.3% of Americans feel the situation will get better in the next month—and only 22.7% feel it will get worse. The highest optimism about the pandemic’s course had ever previously been prior to this period was the week of May 4th, 2020, when 35.1% believed things would get better in the next month. And even then, pessimism still outweighed optimism, unlike today. These better feelings translate to travel. Perceptions of travel and leisure activities as unsafe has fallen to an average of 46.2% —a record low since the start of the pandemic. About 60% of American travelers feel at least somewhat confident they can travel safely in the current environment, and those who would have travel guilt has declined to 44.0% from a recent peak of 54.6% the week of December 14th. Now 58.5% are in a travel readiness state of mind.

     

     

    Vaccines continue to keep optimism up among a majority of American travelers. Nearly 6-in-10 travelers say COVID-19 vaccines make them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months and 52.9% say it makes them more optimistic about the ability to travel safely in that same time. This week, 54.0% of American travelers report that they have a friend or relative who has received the vaccine. This rate is even higher among older travelers, as well as among those residing in the Western half of the U.S. Seeing people we know get vaccinated against COVID-19 clearly benefits travel sentiment. Those who know others who have already been vaccinated are likelier to have been or plan to be vaccinated themselves. These travelers are even more optimistic about their travel future and have begun planning travel specifically in anticipation of a wider vaccine rollout at higher rates than others. They are also more likely to have done any travel dreaming and planning in the last week, and have more trips planned for 2021 (3.0 vs 2.6).

     

     

    Right now, 80.2% of Americans have plans for one or more upcoming trips, with July still looking like the peak travel month this year. While nearly a quarter of the next road trips Americans will take will be within the next 3 months, the majority of American travelers still anticipate their very next air trip to be after June. More than half of Americans have taken some action towards their very next leisure trip, including researching destinations to visit (26.1%), booking lodging (18.8%) and researching travel activities (14.4%). The primary motivators for these next leisure trips are to spend time with family, relax and escape stress and simply get away from the routineness of daily life. Thus, Americans express how important it is to have such experiences on their trips. In terms of other experiences they want to have on their next trip, outdoor recreation and connecting with nature, food and culinary and any brand new experiences overall are key for many.

     

     

    What could inspire even more Americans to travel, and to travel more? Advertising certainly plays a role. This week, 55.8% report being highly open to travel inspiration. Well over a quarter of all American travelers —and over 35% of those Millennial age or younger —say that an advertisement has specifically motivated them to travel to a destination. In fact, 38.9% say the last travel destination ad they saw made them feel “happy” or “very happy.” This week, one-third of American travelers recalled having seen an ad for a travel destination in the past month, most commonly on broadcast television, social media and elsewhere on the Internet. Where American travelers feel most receptive to travel advertising varies by age, but websites, social media (particularly Facebook), both broadcast and streaming television, and email are common.

     

     

    In addition to how they are feeling about traveling, how Americans perceive travel within their own communities is also critical to understanding the travel industry’s recovery. This week 44.3% agree they feel comfortable going out for leisure activities where they live. In addition, a larger proportion of Americans continue to say they would be happy to see their community advertised for tourism (39.1% vs 29.1% who would be unhappy). Those residing in urban areas are far likelier to feel happy about travel advertisements of their city compared to those residing in suburban or rural areas (50.1% vs 35.6% for rural and 34.7% for suburban).

     

     

    A complimentary report of these key findings is available for you to download and share.
    You can register for our online presentation of these findings Tuesday at 11:00am EST.
    We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers. If you would like further and deeper insights from the complete study, you can learn more here. Please consider donating or purchasing to support this research.
    To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of February 8th

    For the first time, optimism about the course the pandemic will take in the United States over the next month significantly outweighs pessimism. Nevertheless, Americans are frequently experiencing burn out and cabin fever and thus may need travel more than ever.

     

     

    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 5th-7th.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • Although financial worries remain elevated, Americans’ anxiety about contracting the coronavirus is down.
  • For the first time ever, optimism about the course the pandemic will take in the United States over the next month significantly outweighs pessimism.
  • Staying safe from infection remains a top priority for Americans as they consider their lifestyle over the next 6 months, although close behind are finding joy and happiness, emotional well-being and relaxation. Compared to the early period of the pandemic last Spring, more Americans say they will prioritize having new experiences, as well.
  • These lifestyle priorities may be in response to negative aspects weighing on mental wellness during this ongoing pandemic. American travelers rate their daily stress levels at 5.6 on a 10-point scale on average. Nearly half of Americans report feeling symptoms of burn out at least half the time in the last month, and an even greater number—53.1%–say they have as frequently felt cabin fever.
  • American travelers’ primary motivations for taking their next trip are far and away to relax and escape stress and spend time with family.
  • Americans remain in a state of openness to travel inspiration that is greater than any other period in the last 11 months (6.0/10).
  • In total, 39.0% of American travelers say they saw one or more ads for travel destinations in the past month, up from 31.1% in December and 17.8% last May. In terms of other types of travel advertising, one-in-five American travelers recall seeing a hotel or resort ad in the last month, and a similar proportion recall seeing an airline ad. Americans continue to be increasingly comfortable with advertisements of their own communities for tourism.
  • The imperative role of COVID-19 vaccines in travel industry recovery continues to be reiterated. Emphasizing the relationship between vaccination rollout and travel volume, over half (53.0%) of American travelers agree they will avoid travel until vaccines are made available. In addition, over a third (36.1%) of parents with school-age children say they will skip the family vacation this summer if their kids are not vaccinated. Nevertheless, the availability of the vaccines continues to be a source of hope and optimism, as well as inspiration to plan and book travel.
  • As of this week, 81.2% of American travelers report they have at least tentative trip plans right now, and 60% have taken some action in the planning tasks for their next trip.
  • About half of Americans anticipate taking at least one leisure trip within the next 3 months. In looking at the accommodations they expect to stay in on these upcoming trips, hotels are most common.
  •  

    How are we feeling now? As it so happens, this was a good week to ask. Although financial worries remain elevated, Americans’ anxiety about contracting the coronavirus is down. For the first time ever, optimism about the course the pandemic will take in the United States over the next month significantly outweighs pessimism. This week, 37.9% of American travelers feel the situation will get better in the next month, while just 27.0% believe it will get worse—a record low.

     

     

    Staying safe from infection remains a top priority for Americans as they consider their lifestyle over the next 6 months, although close behind are finding joy and happiness, emotional well-being and relaxation. Compared to the early period of the pandemic last Spring, more Americans say they will prioritize having new experiences, as well. These lifestyle priorities may be in response to negative aspects weighing on mental wellness during this ongoing pandemic. American travelers rate their daily stress levels at 5.6 on a 10-point scale on average, meaning more than moderate, occasional stress. Younger Americans continue to feel far more daily stress than older Americans. Nearly half of Americans (48.4%) report feeling symptoms of burn out at least half the time in the last month, and an even greater number—53.1%—say they have as frequently felt cabin fever.

     

     

    Although the state of Americans’ mental health may be less than ideal, travel can serve as salve. American travelers’ primary motivations for taking their next trip are far and away to relax and escape stress (45.7%), and spend time with family (43.2%). Americans continue to perceive the safety of travel and leisure activities as safer than at any other period of the pandemic, and travel guilt is slowly declining (48.6%). Nearly three-in-ten (28.2%) have observed more travel among their personal networks lately. In terms of their state-of-mind around travel, 56.8% are feeling readiness versus hesitation. The average level of excitement about travel in 2021 is even slightly greater than at the start of the year (5.9 vs 5.8). Very importantly, Americans remain in a state of openness to travel inspiration that is greater than any other period in the last 11 months (6.0/10).

     

     

    Advertising may play a role in this excitement and openness Americans are feeling. In total, 39.0% of American travelers say they saw one or more ads for travel destinations in the past month, up from 31.1% in December and 17.8% last May. This rate is similar across the entire U.S., although younger travelers are likelier to recall such destination advertising. In terms of other types of travel advertising, one-in-five American travelers recall seeing a hotel or resort ad in the last month, and a similar proportion recall seeing an airline ad. Americans continue to be increasingly comfortable with advertisements of their own communities for tourism. This week 40.9% said they would be happy if they saw an ad promoting their home city or town as a place for people to visit when safe.

     

     

    The imperative role of COVID-19 vaccines in travel industry recovery continues to be reiterated. Emphasizing the relationship between vaccination rollout and travel volume, over half (53.0%) of American travelers agree they will avoid travel until vaccines are made available. In addition, over a third (36.1%) of parents with school-age children say they will skip the family vacation this summer if their kids are not vaccinated. Nevertheless, the availability of the vaccines continues to be a source of hope—62.5% say they make them more optimistic about life resuming to normalcy in the next 6 months and 56.3% say they make them more optimistic that they can travel safely in the same period. In addition, over a third of American travelers report they have begun planning and/or booking future travel specifically in anticipation of a wide distribution of COVID-19 vaccines.

     

     

    As of this week, 81.2% of American travelers report they have at least tentative trip plans right now, and 60.0% have taken some action in the planning tasks for their next trip, including researching destinations to visit (26.4%), researching their lodging options (17.1%) and researching travel activities (14.7%). About half of Americans anticipate taking at least one leisure trip within the next 3 months. In looking at the accommodations they expect to stay in on these upcoming trips, hotels are most common. Nearly one third plan to stay in a full-service 3 or 4-star hotel, while just under a quarter plan to stay in a 5-star luxury hotel.

     

     

    A complimentary report of these key findings is available for you to download and share.
    You can register for our online presentation of these findings Tuesday at 11:00am EST.
    We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers. If you would like further and deeper insights from the complete study, you can learn more here. Please consider donating or purchasing to support this research.
    To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

    The Exciting but Competitive Future: Looking Ahead for DMOs

    In the Fall of 2020, Destination Analysts conducted a survey of over 240 DMO executives about change and disruption in the tourism industry, commissioned by and in partnership with BVK, as one part of their Destination Tailwind: A Strategy Series on transformational change. The findings from this research have important strategic implications for DMOs—from where to focus resources, to the skills that should be hired for in order for these organizations to stay competitive in this increasingly fast-moving world.

     

     

    When we asked DMOs to describe their organizational purpose and mission with a single response, it’s clear that DMOs see themselves as there to strengthen the local economy and quality of life, far more so than as existing for the purposes of destination promotion or as travel demand generators. But some sense is compelling 70% to agree that their organization needs to change or evolve their mission and purpose.

     

    DMO executives see a need to change in important ways. Nearly all agreed—and 41% strongly—that their organization recognizes the need to transform in response to disruptive industry trends, including changing customer needs, technology, and on a vastly different side, local community and resident sentiment. In fact, in part to this, DMO executives agree the ways they need to change are significant. There is strong agreement across the DMO industry that their organizations need to change or evolve their funding model and even change or evolve their core offerings.

     

    DMO executives are challenged with how to create an internal culture prepared for change with the funding and resources they currently have, as well as grapple with the inevitable external forces that impact their ability to adapt and change, even when the internal structure is there. 25% say that new concepts, products and ideas at their organization often or always get LESS attention than they should because key constituents tend to favor the way things have always been done. 61% say this sometimes happens—only 11% never. Many DMO executives cited getting internal buy-in and a lack of compelling ideas as obstacles to their ability to transform. Clearly, they need people on their teams that are skilled at obtaining resources and inspiring internal buy-in.

     

    Competitive pressure is intensifying and coming from all angles—56% of DMOs believe the competitive intensity they feel now will only increase moving forward. Just within the next year, almost 70% say they expect increased competition specifically within their own industry, and 61% anticipate increased competition from adjacent industries, such as technology or travel influencers. Over half of DMOs say they anticipate competition for their services and offerings from entirely new industries, and over a third even anticipate competition for their services from organizations within their own communities. As DMO executives look out over the next five years, a majority likely feel they will face increased competition for the very core services these organizations are likely most currently known and valued for, including Destination Branding, Product/Experience Development, Tourism Marketing, Visitor Information, Economic Development.

     

    A “working together” ethos may thus be more critical than ever.

     

    You can watch Destination Analysts’ CEO, Erin Francis-Cummings, discuss highlights from this research in Episode 1: The Business Case for Change here. If you would like a presentation of the full findings of this important research for your internal team, Board of Directors or other stakeholders, we would be happy to help. Please register and submit a request here.

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of February 1st

    Less anxious and pessimistic about the pandemic, Americans still feel quite some distance from “normal” —particularly when it comes to travel. Meanwhile, as the year marches on, the proportion of Americans planning to travel within the next three months has grown.

     

     

    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 January 29th-31st.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • After heightening last week, Americans’ anxiety about the pandemic and its impact lessened this week. More Americans are now feeling the coronavirus situation in the United States will stay relatively the same over the next month, at 35.0% up from 26.9% since last week.
  • Americans’ perceptions of the safety of travel and leisure activities continue to be the among the best they have been during the pandemic.
  • However, Americans still generally feel some distance from “normal.” Right now, the abilities to work/make money, be happy and enjoy relationships with family are where the greatest proportions of American travelers feel closer to normal. Unfortunately, just 21.4 percent feel more normalcy around being able to travel as they like.
  • Vaccines play a large role in a return to normal. When asked what needed to happen before they feel things have returned back to a normalcy they are comfortable with, there was the most agreement with having an effective vaccine widely distributed in the United States, followed by an effective vaccine widely distributed across the globe.
  • While excitement for travel in both the short (5.5/10) and longer term (5.9) decreased slightly this week and half still report they would feel guilty traveling right now, Americans’ overall state-of-mind around travel is at levels last seen in Fall 2020, before the most recent surge in cases. This week, 56.6% say they are in a readiness mindset when it comes to travel.
  • Americans remain in a period of being the most open to travel inspiration that they have been since the onset of the pandemic 11 months ago.
  • Although 56.1% still don’t want travelers in their own community right now, 40.5% said they would be happy to see an ad promoting their community as a place for tourism when it’s safe.
  • Just under half of American travelers say they will take at least one trip in the next three months (February-April). Many of these trips will remain regional, although cities as a trip destination have grown in popularity (40.9%), surpassing small towns and rural destinations (31.6%).
  • Two-thirds of American travelers did some kind of travel planning activity in the last week, from making travel reservations (11.2%) to researching travel ideas online (27.6%) to simply daydreaming about a vacation (33.2%).
  • Looking at where Americans dreamt of visiting in the last week, many had their minds on sun and fun, Europe, iconic cities, as well as classic outdoor destinations.
  •  

    Welcome to month 2 of 2021!

     

    After heightening last week, Americans’ anxiety about personally contracting COVID-19 (6.8/10), their friends or family contracting the virus (7.3), the pandemic’s impact on their personal finances (6.0) and the national economy (7.6) lessened this week. More Americans are now feeling the coronavirus situation in the United States will stay relatively the same over the next month, at 35.0% up from 26.9% since last week. Meanwhile, the percent who feel things will get worse (34.3%) and the percent who feel things will get better (30.7%) both decreased. Americans’ perceptions of the safety of travel and leisure activities continue to be among the best they have been during the pandemic. More than half of Americans no longer view museums and indoor attractions, theme parks and outdoor attractions, vacation home rentals, hotels, restaurants, and shopping as unsafe. However, Americans still generally feel some distance from “normal.” Right now, the abilities to work/make money, be happy and enjoy relationships with family are where the greatest proportions of American travelers feel closer to normal. Unfortunately, just 21.4 percent feel more normalcy around being able to travel as they like. (NOTE: Be sure to register for our webinar Tuesday for further analysis into which segments are feeling the most normal).

     

     

    Vaccines play a large role in a return to normal. When asked what needed to happen before they feel things have returned back to a normalcy they are comfortable with, there was the most agreement with having an effective vaccine widely distributed in the United States (57.2%), followed by an effective vaccine widely distributed across the globe (44.5%). About two-thirds of American travelers feel the available vaccines are safe and a majority of American travelers who have not yet received the vaccine expect to be vaccinated by June (57.9%).

     

     

    While excitement for travel in both the short (5.5/10) and longer term (5.9) decreased slightly this week and half still report they would feel guilty traveling right now, Americans’ overall state-of-mind around travel is at levels last seen in Fall 2020, before the most recent surge in cases. This week, 56.6% say they are in a readiness mindset when it comes to travel. Americans remain in a period of being the most open to travel inspiration that they have been since the onset of the pandemic 11 months ago. Although 56.1% still don’t want travelers in their own community right now, 40.5% said they would be happy to see an ad promoting their community as a place for tourism when it’s safe.

     

     

    At this start of a new month in the year, the average American traveler is still reporting they will take 2.8 leisure trips in 2021 (down from 4.9 in 2019). Just under half of Americans travelers say they will take at least one trip in the next three months (February-April). This rate of travel and the average number of trips for this period is greater than the January-March period. Many of these trips will remain regional, within 250 miles of the traveler’s home—although cities as a trip destination has grown in popularity (40.9%), surpassing small towns and rural destinations (31.6%)

     

     

    Two-thirds of American travelers did some kind of travel planning activity in the last week, from making travel reservations (11.2%) to researching travel ideas online (27.6%) to simply daydreaming about a vacation (33.2%). Looking at where Americans dreamt of visiting in the last week, many had their minds on sun and fun (Florida, Hawaii, California, Jamaica), Europe, iconic cities (Paris, New York, Las Vegas) as well as outdoor destinations (Alaska, Wyoming).

     

     

    A complimentary report of these key findings is available for you to download and share.
    You can register for our online presentation of these findings Tuesday at 11:00am EST.
    We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers. If you would like further and deeper insights from the complete study, you can learn more here. Please consider donating or purchasing to support this research.
    To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of January 25th

    Anxiety about the pandemic is as high as ever right now, but driven by optimism about vaccine timelines, Americans keep seeing the light at the end of the tunnel grow larger and closer. This more hopeful outlook has lifted excitement about travel, with planned trips beginning to ramp up in May and urban destinations continuing to show signs of recovery.

     

     

    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 January 22nd-24th.

    Key Findings to Know:

    • Americans’ anxiety about the pandemic is up. The percentage of Americans highly concerned about personally contracting the virus, their friends or family contracting the virus, the pandemic’s impact on their personal finances and its impact on the national economy overall all increased this week—and, in fact, are among the highest levels they have ever been.
    • But Americans also keep growing more optimistic about the future. This week, 35.0% said they feel the pandemic situation is going to get better in the next month. The only other times this measure of optimism reached this level were the weeks of May 4th and June 8th.
    • This more hopeful outlook for the near future has lifted excitement about travel. Americans’ excitement levels for potential getaways and their 2021 travel vision, as well as their openness to travel inspiration, all grew and are in a pandemic-era high period.
    • In a measurement of “pent up demand,” two-thirds of those whose typical travel patterns were altered by the pandemic say they miss traveling “very much,” and now 22.2% of them say they are going to travel more in 2021 to make up for lost time—up from 18.6% last week. Meanwhile, 50.9% confirm they will return to their pre-pandemic levels of traveling.
    • In the last week alone, 38.7% day-dreamt about leisure travel, 30.3% talked about travel with friends or relatives and 27.0% researched travel ideas online.
    • Americans continue to rate travel and leisure activities as safer than they ever have since the start of the pandemic.
    • The availability and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine remains a primary contributor to the growing optimism Americans are feeling about travel. Two-thirds say the vaccines are making them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months and nearly 60% say they are making them more optimistic that they can travel safely within that same period. More American travelers than ever are saying they will get vaccinated against COVID-19 (66.3%).
    • The pace of vaccine distribution will impact the timing of travel volume and trip types. For example, when parents of school-aged children were posed a scenario in which their own and other children had not been vaccinated by this summer, 43.2% of them said that they will NOT travel with the kids in this situation. This is up nearly 18 percentage points from when we last asked this question the week of December 7th.
    • You can see vaccine expectations and how Americans envision the year in their current travel plans. The percent of Americans with leisure trips planned begins to jump up in May. Right now, 26.1% of American travelers say they already have plans to travel in July.
    • In gauging Americans’ march “back to normal,” we continue to see signs of urban destinations recovering. New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles comprise 3 of the top 5 places Americans say they want to visit this year.
    • However, it appears that rural areas will continue to be strong competitors to cities in a way not seen before the pandemic. Those traveling over the next three months are as likely (even slightly more so) to go to small towns and rural areas as cities and metropolitan areas, and while 32.6% of American travelers say their travel preferences favor visiting cities, 29.7% say their preference is for rural.
    •  

      As confirmation of new strains of COVID being detected make headlines, Americans’ anxiety about the pandemic is up. The percentage of Americans highly concerned about personally contracting the virus (74.3%), their friends or family contracting the virus (79.6%), the pandemic’s impact on their personal finances (58.3%) and its impact on the national economy overall (86.7%) all increased this week—and, in fact, are among the highest levels they have ever been. But Americans also keep growing more optimistic about the future, seemingly seeing the light at the end of the tunnel grow larger and closer. This week, 35.0% said they feel the pandemic situation is going to get better in the next month. The only other times this measure of optimism reached this level were the weeks of May 4th and June 8th. Meanwhile, feelings that the pandemic situation will worsen in the next month dropped again and is now at 38.1%.

       

       

      This more hopeful outlook for the near future has lifted excitement about travel in spite of current anxieties. Although 48.2% of American travelers still have lost their taste for travel for the time being, their excitement levels for potential getaways and their 2021 travel vision, as well as their openness to travel inspiration, all grew and are in a pandemic-era high period (5.7, 6.1 and 6.1 respectively on a scale from 0-10). Well over half are in a ready-to-travel mindset (54.3%). In a measurement of “pent up demand,” two-thirds of those whose typical travel patterns were altered by the pandemic say they miss traveling “very much,” and now 22.2% of them say they are going to travel more in 2021 to make up for lost time—up from 18.6% last week. Meanwhile, 50.9% confirm they will return to their pre-pandemic levels of traveling. In the last week alone, 38.7% day-dreamt about leisure travel, 30.3% talked about travel with friends or relatives and 27.0% researched travel ideas online. This week, a record 43.7% of American travelers say that discounts can motivate them to take a trip they had not previously considered. Americans also continue to rate travel and leisure activities as safer than they ever have since the start of the pandemic.

       

       

      The availability and distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine remains a primary contributor to the growing optimism Americans are feeling about travel. Two-thirds say the vaccines are making them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months and nearly 60% say they are making them more optimistic that they can travel safely within that same period. More than a third now say they have begun planning or booking travel in anticipation of wider vaccine distribution. More American travelers than ever are saying they will get vaccinated against COVID-19. This week, 66.3% said they will take one of the available vaccines, and nearly one-third expects to be inoculated by the end of March. Interestingly, this anticipation appears to make them more likely to say they will not be traveling until they get vaccinated (51.5%—up over 10% in the last 6 weeks) or distribution is wider (52.0%—up over 5% in the last 3 weeks). Given this, the pace of vaccine distribution will impact the timing of travel volume and trip types. For example, when parents of school-aged children were posed a scenario in which their own and other children had not been vaccinated by this summer, 43.2% of them said that they will NOT travel with the kids in this situation. This is up nearly 18 percentage points from when we last asked this question the week of December 7th (25.8%).

       

       

      You can see vaccine expectations and how Americans envision the year in their current travel plans. As shown in the infographic below, the percent of Americans with leisure trips planned begins to jump up in May. Right now, 26.1% of American travelers say they already have plans to travel in July. Over the next three months, travel looks like it will be relatively muted compared to the rest of the year, although approximately 47% of American travelers anticipate taking a trip in the next 12 weeks. Nearly 75% of these trips are expected to be within 250 miles of these travelers’ residences.

       

       

      In gauging Americans’ march “back to normal,” we continue to see signs of urban destinations recovering. New York, Las Vegas and Los Angeles comprise 3 of the top 5 places Americans say they want to visit this year. However, it appears that rural areas will continue to be strong competitors to cities in a way not seen before the pandemic. Those traveling over the next three months are as likely (even slightly more so) to go to small towns and rural areas (38.7%) as cities and metropolitan areas (36.3%), and while 32.6% of American travelers say their travel preferences favor visiting cities, 29.7% say their preference is for rural. The pandemic remains a driver of this—56.3% of those that say they prefer rural destinations say COVID-related safety concerns are an important factor to their preference. Other top reasons those with rural preference orient to these destinations include peace and quiet, scenic beauty, escaping from crowds, relaxing atmosphere and these destinations’ charm and ambiance. Meanwhile, those with an urban preference want the food, shopping, cultural offerings, attractions and energy and excitement offered.

       

       

      A complimentary report of these key findings is available for you to download and share.
      You can register for our online presentation of these findings Tuesday at 11:00am EST.
      We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers. If you would like further and deeper insights from the complete study, you can learn more here. Please consider donating or purchasing to support this research.
      To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.