Now is the Time to Shine for Vacation Rentals

 

 

As coronavirus cases in the United States continue to wane, the lasting effects of the pandemic can be good news for certain sectors of the travel industry. Over the past 15 months, American travel behaviors have clearly changed—including where travelers stay during their overnight trips. In fact, at the beginning of May 2021, 15% of American travelers reported having stayed overnight in a vacation home rental within the past two years, while nearly a quarter of those who intend to travel in the next three months anticipate staying in a vacation home rental on an upcoming trip. To learn more about the remarkable rise in vacation rental usage, Senior Research Director Myha Gallagher interviewed a panel of executives from vacation rental companies during our May 25th industry update webinar.

Jason Sprenkle, CEO of Key Data, Michelle Hodges, President of SH Enterprises and Tim Cafferty, President of Outer Banks Blue, shared a look into the current landscape of vacation rentals.

You can watch the panel discussion in this video and read our key takeaways below.

 

 

Business for vacation rental companies has skyrocketed over the course of the pandemic. Michelle of SH Enterprises shared that they are “Having [their] best year in 10 years in terms of occupancy and ADR.” According to Jason of Key Data, RevPAR for property management companies is up 58% and occupancy rate is up 13% compared to pre-pandemic times in 2019. With these record-breaking metrics, Tim from Outer Banks Blue declared that “Right now it is our moment to shine. Now is our moment in the sun!”

The current success of vacation rental companies is attributed to safety and accessibility. With restrictions on certain types of travel, such as cruising and international travel, the preferred option was nearby regional leisure trips in which travelers stayed overnight in vacation rentals. The perception amongst many vacation rental clients was that certain types of travel introduce environments that can’t be controlled, such as at the airport or at a hotel. Vacation rentals, however, provide a safe environment where guests have control and peace-of-mind.

DMOs can best support vacation rental companies by providing one common message, such as “It’s Worth the Wait,” so that they can echo that same message. The panel suggested DMOs could help vacation rental companies most by communicating a common message that they and other travel-related businesses can use to attract visitors when they’re ready to travel. Gulf Shores & Orange Beach Tourism’s “Worth the Wait” summer marketing campaign is an excellent example, in which the DMO sets expectations and asks travelers to pack extra patience along with their swimsuits and sunscreens. Additionally, DMOs can also provide vacation rental companies with real-time data about visitors. Amidst the constantly evolving coronavirus situation, up to date information about visitors will help vacation rental companies anticipate the best ways to serve their valued clients.

As the travel industry continues to embark on the road to recovery and summer travel abounds, vacation rental companies are clearly having their moment in the sun.

Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of June 7th

Despite many finding their fellow travelers irritating, Memorial Day trips boosted travel comfort & confidence, and now a pandemic record-breaking 80% of Americans say they are in a travel ready state-of-mind. To capitalize on this heightened readiness, marketers would be wise to reach travelers with advertising that is honest, friendly and big on fun.

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 June 2nd-4th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Memorial Day trips increase American’s comfort with traveling: Over the Memorial Day holiday, nearly a quarter (22.4%) of American travelers took a trip. Of which, 64.6% said they had a negative-leaning experience—most commonly restaurants not being fully open (19.1%), crowding (19.0%) and poor COVID-19 safety standards (17.9%). In addition, about 40% said they found other travelers they encountered on these trips to be irritating. Still though, these trips are building traveler confidence. In fact, well over half (53.6%) said their Memorial Day trip helped them feel more comfortable with being out and traveling again.
  • Cruising appears to be on the rebound: With decreasing concerns around COVID and Americans’ confidence in travel’s safety continuing to grow, this week the percent of travel bookers who made cruise reservations for an upcoming trip more than doubled in the last week (from 7.0% to 16.1%). In addition, perceptions of traveling by cruise line being unsafe has hit a pandemic-era low (46.0%–down from 60.4% at the beginning of April).
  • Vaccines for children are on the rise: More American parents than ever during the pandemic now say they will have their children vaccinated against COVID (59.7% up from 44.5% last week). However, expectations for adult American travelers has stalled. This week 72.9% say they will or have been vaccinated, a figure that has been stagnant over the last 5 weeks and has yet to surpass the 75% mark.
  • A pandemic record breaking 8-in-10 Americans now say they are ready to travel: This growing readiness is certainly fueled by feelings that the worst of the virus is behind us. In fact, another record breaking 67.8% expect the coronavirus situation in the U.S. will get better in the next month. Meanwhile, a historic low 6.7% expect things to get worse.
  • The demand for summer travel continues its positive trend: With increasingly more Americans in a travel ready state-of-mind, the outlook for summer leisure travel continues to be healthy. While small towns and rural destinations are the likeliest types of destinations that travelers will visit, as has been seen over the past month, urban destinations are returning, with approximately 40% saying they anticipate visiting a city in the next 3 months. Average leisure trip spending during this time period is anticipated to be $1,810, higher than $1,691 reported last week.
  • More Americans than ever during the pandemic recall seeing travel-related advertising: In total, 45.5% reported seeing advertisements for travel destinations in the past month. Broadcast television (42.7%) and online advertisements (41.5%) were the top mediums in which Americans recall travel ads, while ads for hotels (44.1%) and theme parks (42.2%) were the types of ads most widely recalled. Travel ads are also bringing joy to Americans as well as influencing destination decisions. When asked to consider the most recent travel ad they saw, over half said these ads made them feel happy (53.3%). Importantly though, a third of American travelers say that they have indeed decided to visit a destination as a result of having seen an advertisement (32.2%).
  • American travelers want ads that are honest, friendly and fun: Websites found via search engine, broadcast television, Facebook, streaming video, print magazines and email campaigns are the best ways to reach Americans with travel messaging. Younger travelers in particular (Millennials or younger and Gen X) are especially likely to turn to Facebook to learn about new destinations to visit. The most appealing tones in travel messaging right now are ones that are honest, friendly and fun. A significant rise compared to one year ago, the desire for a fun/entertaining tone in travel ads has increased 30 percentage points, from 21.7% to now 47.1%.

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.

Changing the Narrative for LGBTQIA Travelers

 

A personal reflection in response to Destination Analysts’ June 1st, 2021 panel discussion with LGBTQIA travelers, by David Reichbach, Senior Director of Analytics & Data Security at Destination Analysts.

Note: Views expressed here belong to David Reichbach and do not necessarily represent those of other Destination Analysts staff or the company itself.

 

 

As a proud member of the queer community, it was an honor to interview our panel of LGBTQIA travelers to kick-off Pride Month and discuss their current feelings about travel, safety and inclusivity. Craig, Gayle, Savio and Sierra, who represent a range of ages, backgrounds and traveler personas, dialed in from all across the country to share their unique perspectives on how they travel, what motivates them to travel and their important considerations in selecting leisure destinations.

Similar to what we’ve seen in focus groups with other travel segments, LGBTQIA travelers want to see themselves in advertisements and marketing. Their advice to travel marketers is to “Show us instead of keeping us invisible.” Not only are they significantly more interested in visiting destinations that portray our community in travel advertising, but they strongly prioritize going to places that actively promote diversity and inclusion.

As Americans emerge from the pandemic and leisure travel begins to fully recover, the LGBTQIA traveler community is excited to travel more than ever and will be looking for destinations that will accept and welcome them with open arms. Simply put, “Now is the right time to change the narrative and normalize the LGBTQIA experience.”

Watch the full panel discussion below.

 

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.

    Embracing the LatinX Travel Community

     

    As part of Destination Analysts’ ongoing traveling consumer panel series, our industry update webinar on May 11th was followed by an important discussion with LatinX travelers from around the U.S. Moderated by Melissa Elkins, Destination Analysts’ Director of Research, this conversation explored these travelers’ unique perspectives and how their personal experiences impact their travel decisions.

    Watch what this panel of LatinX travelers had to say or read on for main takeaways from the discussion.

     

     

    Key Takeaways:

     

    LatinX travelers appreciate being represented in advertising, however, their representation should occur respectfully and avoid tokenism. LatinX travelers would like to be acknowledged as part of our cultural diversity without being singled out. As Enrique expressed, “I want to feel like I’m not being targeted specifically. I want to feel like I’m just another member of the regular audience. I would prefer that they try intentionally not to target me or cater to specifically me as a minority.” Furthermore, the portrayal should occur naturally and with authenticity, reflecting the mix of different backgrounds. Stereotyping would be a disservice as it overlooks the diversity that is included under the term LatinX. From their perspective, advertising campaigns, “should feel organic. It shouldn’t feel forced.”

    Providing content in both English and Spanish is an effective way to connect with the LatinX community while signaling inclusivity. In the words of Celine, “At this point right now it is almost a need to have things in Spanish. It is such a large population of this country who speak Spanish, either as a primary or secondary language.” Advertising, social media and marketing campaigns also available in Spanish are perceived as embracing. It conveys the message that “You are welcome” and can ultimately help destinations further build their brand by reaching more of the LatinX community.

    As is the case with many travelers, distinct and unique destination attributes are highly influential in the travel decision-making process. That does not necessarily mean that LatinX travelers seek out activities or attractions connecting them to their culture, but rather elements that are new and unique to them. Attractions, cuisine or an event of historical significance can provide a culturally enriching experience. Simply put, they are interested in “Seeing things that are special and aspects that are unique.” There is a significant opportunity for marketers to identify and promote their most distinguished assets and open their world up to the enormous, travel-ready community of LatinX.

    We at Destinations Analysts would like to thank Andrew, Celine, Enrique, Jenny and Samuel for sharing their honest thoughts and valuable perspectives with us and the travel industry.

    Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of May 24th

    Important momentum towards recovery has occurred for some of the travel industry’s hardest hit segments, including international, convention and urban tourism. However, many traveling consumers are experiencing travel in a way that still appears far from normal.

    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 20th-22nd.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • International, Convention + Urban Travel Make Important Gains: Positive movement towards recovery was measured this week in some of the travel industry’s hardest hit sectors. The proportion of American travelers who say they will be avoiding international trips tumbled over 5 percentage points in the last week, reaching a pandemic-low 58.8%. Now one-in-five actively disagree that they will avoid international travel. The avoidance of conventions and conferences also reached a pandemic-low (51.7%). Similarly, 21.5% disagree they will be avoiding these events. In addition, 37.4% of travelers who plan to take a leisure trip in the next 3 months say they will be visiting cities and urban areas, on par with rural and beach destination performance.
  • Optimism Is Up as Vaccinations Continue: Now 73.4% of American travelers have or will get vaccinated against COVID-19. Of those who have been inoculated, 87.3% are more comfortable with the idea of traveling. Overall, nearly two-thirds of American travelers believe the pandemic situation will improve in the U.S. in the next month; only 8.6% anticipate it will worsen. Americans are feeling safer and more confident about travel than ever during the pandemic.
  • Americans Continue to Actively Dream and Plan: In the last week, 77.5% dreamt and/or planned traveled, up nearly 5 percentage points. One-third report that they researched travel ideas online. Nearly 77% of American travelers say they are in a ready-to-travel mindset.
  • Americans are Booking + Going: In the last week, 18.7% of American travelers made a travel booking and/or reservation, primarily hotels (56.9% of travel bookers) and airline tickets (43.5% of travel bookers, up from 32.5% last week). Americans report they will take an average of 2.3 leisure trips over the next 3 months.
  • More Travelers Returning to Pre-Pandemic Travel Resource Behaviors: This week, Instagram appeared in the top 5 channels travelers say they are most receptive to destination promotion in and online travel agencies like Expedia are back among the most frequently utilized resources.
  • Americans Increasingly Want Tourists in Town: Disagreement with the statement “I don’t want travelers in my community right now reached a record-high 30.1%.
  • Memorial Day Travel Looks Strong, Despite Being Impacted by Gas Instability: Although 24.5% agree that recent gas price increases and shortages have led them to change or cancel Memorial Day travel, right now, nearly a quarter (22.6%) of American travelers say they will take a trip for the holiday this year. The average Memorial Day trip will last 3.5 days and take the traveler 534 miles from home. Over 27% say they are getting on a plane. So far, the typical Memorial Day traveler has spent 5.8 hours planning their trip.
  • The Travel Experience is Not Yet Near Normal: Considerable work remains to be done in order for American travel to return to normal. When asked to evaluate their most recent trip, travelers rated their experiences in restaurants and lodging establishment as being furthest from normal. Among other experiences examined in our research, inflight and airport experiences were considered the closest to normal. When asked to evaluate their customer service experiences on their most recent trip, the most problematic area was service in restaurants. 24.1% said they had restaurant experiences that diminished enjoyment of their trip. Hotels, motels and inns performed much better, with only 7.8% of travelers saying they had encountered such customer service problems. Over 40% of travelers agreed that, due to the pandemic, businesses in the travel industry appeared to be having trouble providing adequate service to travelers.
  • Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. 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.

    Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of May 17th

    As COVID worries dip, concerns about gas, travel prices and the economy are on the rise. Meanwhile, this summer certainly won’t look like the last one, as Americans are planning a broader range of trip-experiences.

    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 13th-15th.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • COVID concerns keep dropping as 58% of American travelers are now fully vaccinated: American travelers’ personal health concern levels about COVID again dropped to an all-time low, with nearly a third now relatively unconcerned about contracting the virus. Americans’ expectation that the pandemic situation will improve in the U.S. in the next month reached a record 61.8%. Confidence in travel’s safety continued to increase, and now just 34.7% are engaging in travel avoidance until the situation is more resolved—down over 20 percentage points in 3 months.
  • Yet travel prices and other economic concerns are on the rise: Strong concerns about the national economy rose 3.5 percentage points in the last week to 76.9%. Americans’ belief that travel prices will be low this summer has declined (31.5%), while disagreement that they will get low prices for travel is on the rise (41.6%). Americans vacationing over the next 3 months anticipate they will spend $1,720 on travel during this period.
  • All eyes on gas prices: Our ongoing decades-long research on American travelers has always shown a correlation between gas prices and travel sentiment. Recent gasoline price inflation and shortages following the Colonial Pipeline cyber-attack have had a significant impact on the traveling community. Nearly one-third (30.9%) of travelers report being affected by the event. While the ultimate impact on the travel industry is unclear, many travelers (15.9%) say this volatility in the gasoline market has led them to reconsider or cancel upcoming travel plans.
  • The majority of American travelers remain ready-to-travel and marketable: Over 70% of American travelers say they are excited and open to new trips in the near-term, as well as highly desiring of travel inspiration. Our travel marketability predictive indices show that all segments have now reached the potentially marketable status. Search engines, email campaigns and social media remain the top channels that Americans say they would be most receptive to travel messaging in.
  • Americans continue to make trip plans: Over 72% report doing some travel planning or dreaming in the last week. The months of July (32.6%) and August (31.6%) continue to see growth in the proportion of Americans expecting to take leisure trips during then. September and October also look strong for travel, with a quarter of Americans reporting they plan to get away in each of those months.
  • This summer definitely won’t look like the last one, as Americans will engage in a wider range of trip-types: While 46.3% of American travelers say they’re planning low key close-to-home escapes, 40.7% also report that they will be taking longer, more involved trips to interesting locations this summer. And 1-in-10 report they will be taking a bucket list trip.
  • Support of local tourism reaches pandemic record levels: The proportion of American travelers that say they don’t want tourists in their own communities reached a record low 37.5%, while 53.3% say they would be happy to see an ad promoting tourism to their community.
  • Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. 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.

    Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of May 10th

    Despite the excitement driving the return to normalcy, travel marketers would be wise to factor in the more lasting effects of the pandemic on travelers’ attitudes, and thus consequent behaviors. Many travelers report that the pandemic has changed them, leaving them more budget and safety conscious, and generally more on their guard. Even with the growing selection of cities as trip destinations, travelers report they are more into the outdoors 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 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 6th-8th.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • Vaccination continues: 57% of American travelers are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and a record 72.1% say they have or intend to be vaccinated. With the approval of vaccines for ages 12-15 announced last week, over half will have their children take a vaccine (53.5%, up 4 percentage points from last week).
  • Coronavirus anxiety—both from the health and financial perspectives—remains lower than any other period during the pandemic. In fact, the proportion of Americans now unconcerned reached record-highs. Meanwhile, pessimism about the pandemic’s course in the U.S. reached a record-low (10.9%).
  • The returning belief in travel’s safety remains strong. Three-quarters of American travelers have confidence they can travel safely right now, and a record-high 40.5% say they will NOT be avoiding any travel until the pandemic is over. Half of American travelers say they won’t feel guilty traveling right now, either.
  • Over 70% of American travelers are highly excited by the prospect of near-term travel and highly open to travel inspiration. More than three-quarters of American travelers say their state-of-mind around travel is “READY.” Nearly 35% of American travelers researched travel ideas online in the last week, a pandemic-record.
  • Over 90% of American travelers have trip plans right now, and plan to take 3.0 leisure trips this year, on average. More than 75% will take a trip within the next 3 months.
  • Consumer expectations about travel prices may have started to catch up with the reality of the demand. The proportion who believe travel prices will be low this summer declined, and is now outweighed by the proportion who feel this will not be the case.
  • Despite excitement for a return to normalcy, travel marketers would be wise to factor in the more lasting effects of the pandemic on travelers’ attitudes, and thus consequent behaviors. Many travelers report that the pandemic has changed them, leaving them more budget and safety conscious, and generally more on their guard. Compared to their pre-pandemic selves, three-quarters say they are now more safety conscious, 45 percent feel they are now more budget conscious, and fully 58% say they have an elevated concern that “something could go wrong” on their upcoming trips.
  • Travelers say the pandemic has changed them in other ways, including being much more interested now in outdoor activities and being close to nature. Careful trip planning will likely be more important to travelers in the post-pandemic world, with nearly 40% now more into this behavior. As was realized early on, the pandemic has most challenged growing customer bases for cruises, as well as amusement parks and cities. Of the activities we tested, traveler interest in cruising has taken a significant overall decline (33.9%). The results are less dramatic for amusement parks and cities, but overall about as many travelers say they have lost interest in these experiences as have gained interest in them as a result of the pandemic.
  • The pandemic has also disrupted trust in travel information, although fortunately American travelers are more likely to say the pandemic has left them more trusting in information sources available to them (38.1%) than less trusting (23.8%).
  • In good news for the meetings and convention industry, avoidance of these events reached a record-low (53.2%).
  • Local support of tourism keeps growing, as well. The proportion who don’t want travelers in their community remains under 40%. Anticipated happiness of seeing a travel ad about their community rose again, this time to 56.8%, the highest level recorded in the pandemic.
  • Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. 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.

    Update on American Travel Trends & Sentiment—Week of May 3rd

    It was yet another record week for consumer sentiment in travel’s recovery. However, despite acknowledgement of the strong travel demand this summer, many are likely to find that travel prices don’t match their discount-oriented expectations.

    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 April 30th – May 2nd.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • It was yet another record week for consumer sentiment in travel’s recovery.
  • Record vaccinations: Now nearly 7-in-10 American travelers have or plan to get vaccinated from COVID-19. Just over half (51.5%) of American travelers report now being fully vaccinated—and nearly 90% of these vaccinated travelers are now comfortable with the idea of traveling, another pandemic record.
  • Strong optimism: Near-term expectations for the pandemic situation improving in the U.S. grew dramatically this week. The percent of American travelers feeing the next month would see improvements grew to 59.4%, up from 44.35% last week.
  • Record feelings of safety in the pandemic era: The trend in feeling safer about travel accelerated this week. The rating of over two dozen travel & leisure activities as “unsafe” fell to a record-low 30.4%. Confidence in travel’s safety hit a pandemic-record 45.8%.
  • Record support for local tourism in the pandemic era: Travelers are also feeling safer in their own communities, with 65.6% saying they’re comfortable going out in their home communities, another pandemic record. When asked how they would feel seeing a travel advertisement for their home community, 54.6% said they would be happy or very happy. A record-high 26.9% say they “disagree” that they don’t want tourists coming to town, and those agreeing with this sentiment dropped to a low of 39.8%.
  • Enthusiasm for travel at 1-Year High: Travel readiness hit a pandemic-record 77.0% this week. Now 73.5% of American travelers say they have high levels of excitement about travel this year, up from 65.0% last week. Meanwhile, rejection of travel guilt hit a record-high 47.6%.
  • More Boomers join in on the travel excitement: Despite being among the first groups to be vaccinated, for the last few months, our research had shown a majority of Boomers being more modest in their sentiments around travel. But this week, Boomers had the greatest growth in their travel marketability index score, relative to any other segment we track.
  • Record travel dreaming, planning and booking this year: In the last week, a record 80.2% of American travelers dreamt or planned travel, including 21.6% who made reservations or bookings—another record. Among the bookers, 52.1% reserved a hotel room and 43.1% bought airfare. Now an incredible 76.5% expect to travel in the next 3 months, and anticipated travel spending in this time frame reached a record $1,768.
  • The outlook for summer travel grew even stronger: About 87% of American travelers expect to be taking trips this summer, be it a vacation, visiting friends or relatives, business trip or meeting at a conference.
  • Travelers expect this summer travel season to be a busy one: With the exception of small towns/villages and rural destinations, more than half of traveling consumers expect destinations to be (very) busy or crowded this summer. In fact, nearly 75% expect beach/resorts destinations to be crowded. A majority of Americans also expect it to be busy at a number of venues and places, from museums to concerts to sporting events. Interestingly, after airports and flights, Americans expect the most crowding at bars and nightclubs in Summer 2021.
  • Consumer price expectations haven’t caught up to demand expectations: Despite anticipating that it will be busy pretty much everywhere this summer, a notable proportion of travelers are expecting travel costs to be moderate. About half (49.6%) agree that travel companies will keep prices “reasonable” this summer, and 40.4% even feel it will be a “buyer’s market” this summer. Despite over two-thirds of travelers expecting it to be busy for air travel and in hotels, over 40% expect prices for airfare and lodging to be lower than normal. And discounts and deals as a travel motivator hit a pandemic-record 55.5%.
  • Cities keep on the recovery trajectory: Now 41.2% of those traveling for leisure in the next 3 months say they will be visiting cities, up from 35.9% last week.
  • The top 3 most common desires for travel this year (notably different from 2020): Chill-out/Decompress, Experience Beautiful Places, Do New things/Visit New Places.
  • Wanting more inspiration and more from influencers: This week, American travelers also report being more open to travel inspiration, with 71.2% saying they were excited to learn about new destinations and travel experiences (up from 62.7% last week). Nearly a quarter of all travelers—and well over a third of Millennial and younger travelers—report using digital influencers as part of their travel process, primarily those who are honest, provide new ideas and specialize. The most common trip decisions influencer-users were motivated by these personalities to make were for destinations to visit, restaurants and hotels.
  • Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. 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.

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    The Hotel Industry’s Road to Recovery

     

     

    It is no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has crushed the hospitality industry. Hotels especially suffered a devastating blow, with many of them struggling for survival. According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, hotels were one of the first industries affected by the pandemic after travel was forced to a halt in early 2020, and it will be one of the last to recover. However, American consumers are resilient and increasingly ready to travel.

    As part of our industry update webinar on April 20th, we were fortunate to be joined by hotel executives, Nikki Keenan, Senior Vice President at Fertitta Entertainment, Azim Saju, President & CEO at HDG Hotels and Ed Mace, President & CEO at Silverwest. Destination Analysts’ Founder & Managing Director, Dave Bratton, led an enlightening discussion with the panel of accomplished hotel executives, who offered a glimpse into their unique world. You can watch the panel discussion in this video and read our key takeaways below.
     

     

    Key Takeaways:

     

    The demand for leisure travel is back and is expected to last throughout the summer. With many hotels running significantly behind budget, the beginning of March looked bleak. However, that soon changed. According to Azim, who owns hotels across Florida, “In the last four to five weeks, it seems like someone turned the lights on in Orlando. There have been huge pickups in demand.” That trend appears to be continuing as many hotels have surpassed their April forecasts. Similar experiences are seen in the Western region of the U.S., where outdoor destinations have done well throughout the winter and are well-positioned for the summer. Ed, who runs properties in Colorado and Hawaii shared that, “Hawaii has come roaring back. Reservations skyrocketed. Every week in Hawaii has been an increase over the prior week in terms of reservation pick-up. Summer looks really, really good!” While heightened leisure demand continues increasing into the summer months, consumers should be cognizant of the fact that “we are going to see some serious headways on rates.”

    While there are signs that group business is returning, the demand is gradual and booking windows are shorter. For Nikki and her company, who manage hotels in Las Vegas, Atlantic City and Texas, their Houston properties appear to have a healthy 3rd and 4th quarter for group business. While Ed is relatively confident that group business will return and has groups on the books in 2022, he does feel that it’s a little too early to call it a victory. Azim, who acknowledged that booking windows for both leisure and group business are much shorter now compared to pre-pandemic, has yet to book any groups. Furthermore, in markets like Orlando, where group business has been severely affected, there is a struggle to offer competitive group rates while also “having the confidence to raise rates when you’re seeing demand even if the booking window is short because you’re worried that you’re going to lose business.”

     

     

    Staffing is clearly a major challenge for hoteliers, however they also face challenges around setting guest expectations. After having to lay off a large percentage of their workforce, “Labor is probably the number one challenge. The whole industry is really struggling to get jobs filled.” Azim urged others in similar positions to reach out to local congressional officials about their staffing and employment concerns so that “they can understand the consequences of their legislative actions and how it is impacting our economy and our businesses.” Nevertheless, hoteliers are offering compelling incentives to recruit and keep staff, such as sign on and retention bonuses, paid time off, benefits and scheduling flexibility. Alongside limited staff, hoteliers are also met with the challenge of setting visitor expectations both within the hotel and in the destination. Hotels have had to be the bearers of news that clearly impact the visitor experience and guests are conceivably confronted with limited capacity, amenities and services, lack of restaurant and rental car availability and currently closed businesses.

    In addition to communicating that travel can be done safely, Destination Marketing Organizations can support hotels by celebrating the hospitality industry. The panel of distinguished hotel executives requested DMOs to generate the message that hotels, airlines, attractions and all tourism-related businesses have carefully developed protocols and guidance to keep visitors and staff safe. Highlighting outdoor experiences that naturally allow for social distancing is another way DMOs can help the hotel industry. And last, but certainly not least, DMOs can celebrate the hospitality industry and show what an amazing industry it is to work in. The support of DMOs in celebrating the industry is extremely helpful, and will surely go a long way, in attracting and rebuilding a workforce.

    As the hotel industry continues to embark on the road to recovery, hoteliers are keen to deliver relevant visitor experiences and will continue to enforce with confidence that it is fun and safe to travel. We would like to thank Nikki, Azim and Ed for sharing their time and outlook on the hospitality industry.