Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of January 18th

Although anxiety came down a bit, so too did the highs seen last week in travel sentiment—however, overall, these sentiments remain in one of the better positions they have been in throughout the pandemic. Right now, scenic beauty, outdoor activities in warm weather, beach destinations and resorts, National Parks and road trips are still predominant in travelers’ minds, while returning to live events and festivals is likelier for late in 2021.

 

 

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 15th-17th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Americans’ anxieties about the pandemic quelled somewhat this week relative to last week, although in a historic context, these largely remain in an elevated state.
  • Nevertheless, Americans continue to show that they believe better days are in sight. The percent of Americans who feel the pandemic situation in the U.S. will get worse in the next month fell another 6.5% this week to 43.2%, the lowest it has been since September 27th.
  • Although anxiety came down a bit, so did the highs seen last week in travel sentiment, as well. The modest decline in travel sentiment was seen across generations, although Boomer travelers are generally significantly less ready, excited and open to inspiration than younger travelers, even over the rest of 2021.
  • One metric that did continue a positive trend is the retreat in perceptions of travel and leisure activities as unsafe—which dropped to 48.9% and is now lower than where it was March 15th.
  • Also down somewhat this week are perceptions of and willingness to take the COVID-19 vaccines. However, over half of Americans feel they will be inoculated by June.
  • In terms of what Americans are looking for in travel experiences in 2021, right now scenic beauty, outdoor activities in warm weather, beach destinations and resorts, National Parks and road trips are predominant in their minds. With the virus still raging, big city and food experiences do not weigh as heavy as they did in pre-pandemic times.
  • Right now, over a third (36.8%) of those Americans who attend live events and festivals say they would be comfortable traveling to attend such an event by June; the rest need more time.
  • Looking at strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19 at events, if all attendees were required to take a COVID-19 test and present a negative result to enter the event, 45.2% of American travelers said this would make them more comfortable. If all attendees were required to show proof of vaccine, 51.0% said this would make them more comfortable attending.
  • Looking specifically at the outlook for the next 3 months, the average number of reported trips in this period is 1.1, up from 1.0 last week. When those that are traveling in this period were asked about the destination types they expect to visit, there has been a modest increase in expectations for travel to cities and beaches, as well as state and regional recreational areas and mountain destinations.
  • In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, the only federal holiday designated as a national day of service, consider safely volunteering in your community. A number of opportunities are listed here.
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    Americans’ anxiety about the pandemic quelled somewhat this week relative to last week. Save for the virus’ impact on their personal finances—which bumped up slightly—the level of anxiety about other coronavirus related impacts—including on the national economy and their personal and friends/family’s health—trended down from last week. In a historic context, however, these all largely remain in an elevated state. Nevertheless, Americans continue to show that they believe better days are in sight. The percent of Americans who feel the pandemic situation in the U.S. will get worse in the next month fell another 6.5% this week to 43.2%, the lowest it has been since September 27th. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter believe that things will be better within the month.

     

     

    Although anxiety came down a bit, so did the highs seen last week in travel sentiment. For example, those in a travel readiness state-of-mind dropped to 55.5% after reaching 58.6% last week, and the level of openness to travel inspiration dipped to 5.9 after reaching 6.0 last week. [Register for our webinar Tuesday to receive the full detail on this week’s sentiment metrics]. The modest decline in travel sentiment was seen across generations, although Boomer travelers are generally significantly less ready, excited and open to inspiration than younger travelers, even over the rest of 2021. Millennial travelers, for instance, are more than 3 times as likely to say their travel behaviors and trips this year will be to make up for the lost time in their travel lives (27.7% say this, compared to just 7.9% of Boomers). Nevertheless, when Boomer travelers do take their next trip by airplane, it will be to somewhere further compared to those in younger generations: 1,267 miles away on average compared to 875 miles. And despite the small dip this week across ages, note that travel sentiment overall remains in one of the better positions it has been in throughout the pandemic. Fortunately, one metric that did continue a positive trend is the retreat in perceptions of travel and leisure activities as unsafe—which dropped to 48.9% and is now lower than where it was March 15th.

     

     

    With the availability and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines a major factor in the return to normalcy for many travelers, this week 49.7% say they will avoid travel until vaccines are made widely available. Although 63.4% believe the COVID-19 vaccines are safe, this is down somewhat from last week (67.8%). Also down are the percent who expect to take a COVID-19 vaccine (58.6%) and the optimism the vaccines are inspiring about travel safety (51.0%) and an overall return to normal in the next six months (56.3%). The infographic below shows the month American travelers expect to get inoculated against the virus. Boomers are most expecting to take the vaccine (70.9% provided an affirmative yes, compared to 46.2% of Millennials) and, given their prioritization for vaccination, over two-thirds expect they will be vaccinated by June. Boomer travelers are far likelier than younger travelers to feel the COVID vaccines are safe. Interestingly, travelers in the South are more than twice as likely to say they won’t receive a vaccine as those in other regions of the country (28.5% say they will not take it; less than 20% of travelers in other regions say they will not).

     

     

    In terms of what Americans are looking for in travel experiences in 2021, right now scenic beauty, outdoor activities in warm weather, beach destinations and resorts, National Parks and road trips are predominant in their minds. With the virus still raging, big city and food experiences do not weigh as heavy as they did in pre-pandemic times. Compared to when this question was posed in May 2020, interest in National Parks, mountains, deserts and international destinations has grown.

     

     

    One of the big questions for travel in 2021 is if live events and festivals will be held and if travelers will be willing to attend them. Of those Americans who attend such events, 38.9% say they are missing these events to a significant degree. Right now, over a third (36.8%) say they would be comfortable traveling to attend such an event by June; the rest need more time. Looking at strategies to combat the spread of COVID-19 at events, if all attendees were required to take a COVID-19 test and present a negative result to enter the event, 45.2% of American travelers said this would make them more comfortable. If all attendees were required to show proof of vaccine, 51.0% said this would make them more comfortable attending.

     

     

    Looking specifically at the outlook for the next 3 months, the average number of reported trips in this period is 1.1, up from 1.0 last week. In total, 47.6% of American travelers expect to take a trip in the next 12 weeks. When those that are traveling in this period were asked about the destination types they expect to visit, there has been a modest increase in expectations for travel to cities and beaches, as well as state and regional recreational areas and mountain destinations.

     

     

    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.

How Business Travel Will Continue to be Impacted by COVID-19 in 2021

As travel industry professionals, we are well aware that all facets of travel halted with the onset of COVID-19. The loss of business travel, an essential segment for the travel industry’s health, is a particularly painful hardship. According to the U.S. Travel Association, in 2019, direct spending on business travel by domestic and international travelers, including expenditures on meetings, events and incentive programs totaled $334.2 billion. So, you can only imagine what the lack of business travel has done to our industry in 2020 and now into 2021. And with the pandemic ongoing, in-person business travel activities, such as client meetings, training, presentations and product launches, continue to be nixed or heavily restricted.

 

With the pandemic’s drastic impact on working life for many Americans, what does this mean for the future of business travel?

 

Destination Analysts explored the future of business travel in the December 7th wave of our Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study. We asked Americans who traveled for business if they anticipate their employers will approach business travel differently in the next 2 to 5 years. Just under half of business travelers feel that the COVID-19 pandemic will indeed change the business travel dynamic in both the short and longer term.

 

 

The expected changes that will affect business travel range from a decline in the volume of business trips that will be taken to required adherence to stricter health and safety standards. When asked what ways they expect their employers will change business travel over the longer term, over half of American business travelers said they anticipate fewer overall business trips will be taken, while nearly a third said trips will be shorter in length. Other anticipated changes include more travel that is replaced by webinars or virtual meetings. There are also notable expectations for smaller groups traveling on a business trip, more restrictions on travel budgets and more restrictive health or safety protocols for traveling staff.

 

 

On the employer side, there is a lot to consider when it comes to business travel and the ongoing threat of COVID-19. In our October 20th industry update webinar, Destination Analysts’ President & CEO Erin Francis-Cummings interviewed Elaine Cameron, Global Senior Director of Human Resources at Munchkin, Inc., where employee travel is currently restricted to business-critical travel only. At Munchkin, business travel is only permitted if it meets safety standards and can’t be done virtually. While business travel is important to Munchkin’s operations, Elaine predicted that the turning point for business travel to resume to normal levels would be “when our employees feel safe and that’s ultimately when we have a vaccine.” In a positive sign for business travel, findings from our January 18th wave of our Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study show that the majority of business travelers who have not yet been vaccinated anticipate that they will receive the vaccine by June of this year (62.8%).

 

Although the pandemic looks to have a continued effect on business travel for both employers and employees alike—from fewer to shorter to virtual–the January 18th wave of our study also found that over two-thirds of business travelers felt that vaccine developments made them more optimistic about life returning to normal within the next 6 months. Perhaps then the severity and time frame of these impacts to business travel may be lessened.

 

Good News: 8 Travel Sentiment Metrics that Reached Record-Highs this Week

 

 

After the dark events of last week, it’s nice to report some remarkable light for our travel industry. Of the many positive metrics in American travel sentiment this week, here is a summary of all those that hit pandemic-period record-highs:

 

  • Americans’ openness to travel inspiration (measuring 6.0 on a scale of 0-10)
  • Those in a travel readiness state-of-mind (58.6%)
  • Excitement levels about travel in 2021 (6.1 on a scale of 0-10)
  • The percent of American travelers who believe the COVID-19 vaccines are safe (67.8%)
  • The percent of American travelers that will be getting vaccinated against COVID-19 (61.4%)
  • The proportion of American travelers who are more optimistic about being able to safely travel in the next six months due to vaccine availability (56.4%)
  • The percent of American travelers saying they have begun planning and booking trips specifically in anticipation of vaccines being available (33.7%)
  • The percent of American travelers who say discounts and price cuts can motivate them to take a trip they had not previously considered (43.0%)
  • The percent of American travelers that said they would be happy if they saw an advertisement promoting their community as a place for tourists to come visit when it is safe (40.3%)
  • Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of January 11th

    Anxieties may be raised, but as Americans look out over the next month, they see an improving situation. For the travel industry, this means a delightful shift in sentiment towards travel, with openness to travel inspiration never higher in the last 10 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 January 8th-10th.

    Key Findings to Know:

    • Across the country, anxiety was up this week, particularly about personally contracting COVID-19 and the pandemic’s impact on the national economy. But as Americans look out over the next month they see an improving situation.
    • Undoubtedly, the availability and ongoing distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are a contributor to these feelings of encouragement. The proportion of American travelers who say the vaccines make them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months (61.9%), the proportion who say the vaccines make them more optimistic about being able to safely travel in the next six months (56.4%), and the number of travelers saying they have begun planning and booking trips specifically in anticipation of vaccines being available (33.7%) have all risen.
    • Amongst the most critical indicators of Americans’ path to a travel norm is the plummet in perceptions of travel activities as unsafe. This week, an average of 50.1% perceive the travel and leisure activities we track as unsafe, which is the lowest it has been since March 15th. More Americans are confident they can travel safely now, rising to 31.8% from 24.7% last week.
    • Americans’ openness to travel inspiration reached a pandemic-period peak, measuring 6.0 on a scale of 0-10. Those in a travel readiness state-of-mind soared nearly 12 percentage points to 58.6%, also the highest it has been in the pandemic. Excitement levels about travel in 2021 grew to 6.1 from 5.8 last week.
    • As Americans plan their travel for 2021, July is still the peak month, with 27% saying they have at least tentative plans to travel then. Right now, 31.4% of American travelers anticipate their next air trip to be in the first half of the year.
    • When it comes to travel in the next three months, more Americans are seeing this as a reality. This week, 48.9% say they will take at least one leisure trip in the next 12 weeks, up from 37.5%. Of those Americans who will travel, they anticipate 1.7 overnight trips on average, largely within 250-miles of where they live.
    • 43.0% of all American travelers say discounts and price cuts can motivate them to take a trip they had not previously considered—a 43-week high.
    • With the important increase in Americans’ desire for travel inspiration, content found through search engines, email and travel/lifestyle magazines are good bets for travel marketers across generations, while streaming video services and social media are also key for inspiring younger travelers.
    • While 53.5% still do not want visitors to their communities right now, a high of 40.3% said they would be happy if they saw an advertisement promoting their community as a place for tourists to come visit when it is safe.

     

    Across the country, anxiety was up this week, particularly about personally contracting COVID-19 (72.5% highly concerned) and the pandemic’s impact on the national economy (85.1% highly concerned). But as Americans look out over the next month, they see an improving situation—the percent of Americans who feel the pandemic will get worse in the U.S. in the next month dropped below 50% for the first time since the week of October 12th, and the percent who feel things will get better rose to 24.9%, the highest it has been in 7 months, since the week of June 8th. For the travel industry, this resulted in a delightful shift in positive sentiment towards travel.

     

     

    Undoubtedly, the availability and ongoing distribution of COVID-19 vaccines are a contributor to these feelings of encouragement. A high of 67.8% of American travelers believe the COVID-19 vaccines are safe. Last week, more American travelers than ever said they would be getting vaccinated against the virus, and this week that figure rose again to 61.4%. The percent of those with school-age children who say they will inoculate their kids increased to 53.2%, after being below half for the last 6 weeks. Most American travelers who will take a COVID-19 vaccine believe they will get their doses in the first half of this year. In terms of how this impacts their travel, while 48.7% still say they will engage in some travel avoidance until vaccines are widely available, there was a 5 percentage point rise in the proportion of American travelers who say the vaccines make them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months, which is now at 61.9%. There was a similar increase in the proportion of American travelers who say the vaccines make them more optimistic about being able to safely travel in the next six months, as well as a rise in the number of travelers saying they have begun planning and booking trips specifically in anticipation of vaccines being available—now at 33.7%.

     

     

    Amongst the most critical indicators of Americans’ path to a travel norm is the plummet in perceptions of travel activities as unsafe. This week, an average of 50.1% perceive the travel and leisure activities we track as unsafe, which is within 0.9% of where this metric was March 15th and the lowest it has been since that date. More Americans are confident they can travel safely now, rising to 31.8% from 24.7% last week. Loss of interest in travel for the time being declined to 42.5%, down from a high of 49.5% one month ago. Those whose normal travel patterns were disrupted by the pandemic are now missing travel even more, with nearly two-thirds saying they miss traveling “very much.” Americans’ openness to travel inspiration reached a pandemic-period peak, measuring 6.0 on a scale of 0-10. Those in a travel readiness state-of-mind soared nearly 12 percentage points to 58.6%, also the highest it has been in the pandemic. Excitement levels about travel in 2021 grew to 6.1 from 5.8 last week.

     

     

    As Americans plan their travel for 2021, July is still the peak month, with 27% saying they have at least tentative plans to travel then. Right now, 31.4% of American travelers anticipate their next air trip to be in the first half of the year. The traumatic events of last week may have disrupted the amount of time devoted to travel dreaming (there was a small decline in those that said they had day-dreamed about travel in the last week), although twice as many report having actually made travel reservations last week than the week prior (15.9% up from 8.0%). When it comes to travel in the next three months, more Americans are seeing this as a reality. This week, 48.9% say they will take at least one leisure trip in the next 12-weeks, up from 37.5%. Of those Americans who will travel, they anticipate 1.7 overnight trips on average, largely within 250-miles of where they live. Although the average anticipated spending on travel in this period has increased to $1,398, 50.5% report they will be more budget conscious. In fact, 43.0% of all American travelers say discounts and price cuts can motivate them to take a trip they had not previously considered—a 43-week high.

     

     

    With the important increase in Americans’ desire for travel inspiration, travel marketers will be keen to reach them. This week, we asked American travelers which channels they were most receptive to learning about destinations to visit. While online content found through search engines, email and travel/lifestyle magazines are good bets across generations, streaming video services and social media are key for inspiring younger travelers.

     

     

    It’s also essential to track how Americans are feeling about travel to and within their own communities. This week, 43.8% feel comfortable going out for leisure in their own community, the highest this has been in 2 months. While 53.5% still do not want visitors to their communities right now, the percent that that said they would be happy if they saw an advertisement promoting their community as a place for tourists to come visit when it is safe hit 40.3%–another metric to hit a pandemic-period high this week.

     

     

    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 4th

    Americans are embracing travel in their optimism for a better 2021. However, it appears they plan to defer making their travel dreams reality until later in the year.

     

     

    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 1st-3rd.

    Key Findings to Know:

    • After dropping in the latter half of December, Americans pessimistic that the pandemic will get worse in the U.S. in the next month increased this week to 55.9%. As it concerns Americans’ personal anxiety about contracting COVID-19, this decreased in the last week, yet high concerns about their friends and family getting the virus remained stably elevated. Meanwhile, there are rising anxieties about the pandemic’s impact on personal finances and the national economy.
    • Nearly half of Americans say they are not confident they can travel safely in the current environment.
    • Yet travel is a beneficiary of the new year’s hope. Americans highly open to travel inspiration is up over 6% in the last week (52.6%), and Americans in a travel ready state-of-mind returned to 52.9% after dropping below 50% at the end of December. Inversely, loss of interest in travel has retreated 6 percentage points in the last three weeks to 43.3%.
    • The percent of American travelers who say that they will avoid travel until vaccines are widely available has fallen to 46.7%; meanwhile more Americans than ever are saying they will take the vaccine (60.1%).
    • Over 38% of American travelers say they have day-dreamed about taking a trip in the last week and a third have talked to a friend or relative about a future trip. Nearly a quarter of American travelers have researched travel ideas online just in the past week.
    • As Americans look out over their travel year in this first week of January, they cautiously see an average of 3.0 leisure trips in 2021. It appears trips will ramp up beginning in May, peak in July, ramp back down in October and bump up again in December.
    • About 18% anticipate their first trip by commercial airline in 2021 will be in the second quarter (April-June).
    • Aspirations to visit Florida, Las Vegas, New York, California, Hawaii and Colorado remain most common.
    • The majority of Americans do not plan to travel in the next three months—37.5% do. While 84.5% of these trips will indeed be overnight trips, 66.2% will be regional, and over a third of those traveling say they will be staying in the home of a friend or relative. Both cities and small towns and rural areas will most commonly be visited, however the pandemic will still be dictating trip behaviors. 41.3% plan to visit less crowded places and 30.2% plan to visit outdoor-oriented destinations.

    Welcome to 2021!

    After dropping in the latter half of December, Americans pessimistic that the pandemic will get worse in the U.S. in the next month increased this week to 55.9%. As it concerns Americans’ personal anxiety about contracting COVID-19, this decreased in the last week (to 6.6/10 from 6.9/10), yet high concerns about their friends and family getting the virus remained stably elevated (7.3/10). Meanwhile, as Americans remain uncertain about the amount government-issued stimulus checks will ultimately be, there are rising anxieties about the pandemic’s impact on personal finances (6.0 up from 5.9) and the national economy (7.8 up from 7.5). And with coronavirus cases sustained at record-high levels, right now, just 41.9% of American travelers feel comfortable going out in their own communities for leisure activities—a metric that has still not returned to the pandemic period high of 47.4% registered the week of October 19th. Likewise, perceptions of travel activities as safe also remains unreturned to October levels. In fact, nearly half of Americans say they are not confident they can travel safely in the current environment.

     

     

    Yet a new year is an oft-renewer of hope and optimism, and travel is a beneficiary. Americans highly open to travel inspiration is up over 6% in the last week (52.6%), and Americans in a travel ready state-of-mind returned to 52.9% after dropping below 50% at the end of December. Inversely, loss of interest in travel has retreated 6 percentage points in the last three weeks to 43.3%, and avoidance of international travel (70.9%) and conventions/conferences (68.6%) both hit one of the lowest levels they have been since the pandemic began. The percent of American travelers who that say they will avoid travel until vaccines are widely available has fallen to 46.7% after being well over 50% the week of Christmas, and more Americans than ever are saying they will take the vaccine (60.1%).

     

     

    When asked this week, nearly 60% of American travelers say they miss traveling “very much,” and they appear to be showing it. In fact, 38.4% say they have day-dreamed about taking a trip in the last week and a third have talked to a friend or relative about a future trip. Nearly a quarter of American travelers have researched travel ideas online just in the past week.

     

     

    As Americans look out over their travel year in this first week of January, they cautiously see an average of 3.0 leisure trips in 2021 (Note: if this expectation holds true, leisure trips will be down approximately 39% from 2019 levels). It appears trips will ramp up beginning in May, peak in July, ramp back down in October and bump up again in December. About 18% anticipate their first trip by commercial airline in 2021 will be in the second quarter (April-June). Aspirations to visit Florida, Las Vegas, New York, California, Hawaii and Colorado remain most common.

     

     

    For many Americans, making travel dreams reality will likely be for later in the year. We asked Americans about their travel in the next three months. The majority do not plan to travel—37.5% do. While 84.5% of these trips will indeed be overnight trips, 66.2% will be regional, and over a third of those traveling say they will be staying in the home of a friend or relative rather than paid accommodations. Both cities and small towns and rural areas will most commonly be visited, however the pandemic will still be dictating trip behaviors. 41.3% plan to visit less crowded places and 30.2% plan to visit outdoor-oriented destinations.

     

     

    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 December 27th

    After long holding steady, the perceived safety of travel activities is now faltering with this current virus surge. However, the vaccine remains a light to many American travelers who are increasingly willing to take it.

     

     

    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 December 25th-27th.

    Key Findings to Know:

    • Americans’ coronavirus-related anxiety levels remained consistent.
    • Americans exhibited more polarization this week on whether the coronavirus situation will get worse or better.
    • For the first time in four months, those in a ready-to-travel mind set fell below 50%.
    • After a sustained period of stability, this current—and largest—surge in coronavirus cases has started to worsen safety perceptions about travel and leisure activities.
    • There has also been a slight increase in the percent of Americans who have seen COVID-19 related reports in the media about travel destinations where people were behaving in a manner that would make them feel uncomfortable visiting.
    • The recently developed COVID-19 vaccines remain a continual source of light for many Americans. Nearly 63% say these vaccines make them optimistic about life returning to near-normal in the next 6 months. The perceived safety of these vaccines has grown to 63.8%, and American’s willingness to take the COVID-19 vaccine hit 54.1% this week.
    • Even in the early stages of distribution, the vaccine has had a positive impact on travel. Three-in-ten American travelers now say they have begun planning or booking future travel in anticipation of the COVID-19 vaccine being widely available. This is even more pronounced among younger travelers.
    • With the vaccine-motivated optimism, many American travelers are looking to get inspired. Right now, about half of American travelers say they are open to learning about new destinations to travel to.
    • In terms of the channels they feel most receptive to travel messaging in, Millennial and Gen Z travelers say Instagram and Facebook, Gen X and Baby Boomer travelers say search engines and email campaigns.
    • Since the onset of the pandemic, 17.3% of American travelers say they have gotten new ideas for places to visit from digital influencers.

    As Americans celebrated the Christmas holiday, their coronavirus-related anxiety levels remained consistent. The percent of Americans with elevated concerns about personally contracting the virus (70.3%), their friends/family contracting the virus (76.0%), the virus’ impact on their personal financial situation (53.8%) and the national economy (80.0%) were on par with last week. Interestingly, Americans exhibited more polarization this week on whether the coronavirus situation will get worse or better—the percent that feel it will get worse in the next month grew to 54.5% from 50.9%, while the percent that feel it will get better also grew to 22.1% from 17.8% last week. But given that a study high of 63.3% feel they wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy travel right now and 53.5% say they would feel guilty traveling, for the first time in four months, those in a ready-to-travel mind set fell below 50%.

     

     

    After a sustained period of stability, this current—and largest—surge in coronavirus cases has started to worsen safety perceptions about travel and leisure activities. The percent of Americans who feel activities such as attending large venue sporting events, visiting an amusement park, zoo or other outdoor attraction, flying on a commercial airline, and going shopping are unsafe has risen in the last few weeks. There has also been a slight increase in the percent of Americans who have seen COVID-19 related reports in the media about travel destinations where people were behaving in a manner that would make them feel uncomfortable visiting. This week, Florida is the top destination Americans report hearing negative coronavirus related tourism coverage of, followed by California and New York.

     

     

    The recently developed COVID-19 vaccines remain a continual source of light for many Americans. Nearly 63% say these vaccines make them optimistic about life returning to near-normal in the next 6 months. The perceived safety of these vaccines has grown almost 14% in the last two months to 63.8%, and American’s willingness to take the COVID-19 vaccine is on the rise, hitting 54.1% this week.

     

     

    Even in the early stages of distribution, the vaccine has had a positive impact on travel. Over 53% say the vaccine makes them optimistic they can travel safely within the next 6 months. Three-in-ten American travelers now say they have begun planning or booking future travel in anticipation of the COVID-19 vaccine being widely available, and 83.7% have at least tentative trip plans right now. Vaccine-inspired travel planning is even more pronounced among younger travelers. In total, 38.3% of Millennial age travelers say they have begun planning and booking trips because of vaccine distribution expectations.

     

     

    With the vaccine-motivated optimism, many American travelers are looking to get inspired. Right now, about half of American travelers say they are open to learning about new destinations to travel to. In terms of the channels they feel most receptive to travel messaging in, Millennial and Gen Z travelers say Instagram and Facebook, followed by email, online articles, streaming video services and ads on the Internet. Gen X travelers say they can best be reached through search engines, email campaigns, Facebook and broadcast television. Baby Boomer travelers largely say they are most receptive to travel messaging through search engines, followed by email campaigns, broadcast television and printed official visitor guides. Even with travel so disrupted this year, since the onset of the pandemic, 17.3% of American travelers say they have gotten new ideas for places to visit from digital influencers. This is driven largely by younger travelers, nearly one-third of which report being travel inspired by a digital influencer.

     

     

    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 December 20th

    Although the Christmas and ensuing travel season will be quite off of normal, Americans are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel grow brighter with vaccine progress. Now 46% have moved into the planning and booking stage for 2021 travel.

     

     

    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 December 18th-20th.

    Key Findings to Know:

    • After a sustained period of skewing towards readiness between August and November, half of American travelers feel their mindset around travel right now is one of hesitation and delay. Only 41.9% feel confident they can travel safely right now, down from a high of 49.7% just two weeks ago.
    • As AAA and other sources are also predicting, Christmas travel will be down significantly from 2019, when nearly one-third of American travelers took a Christmas holiday trip. This week, just 17.4% of American travelers say they will take a trip for the holiday, with 6.9% still unsure. Cancellations of a Christmas trip due to the pandemic were reported by 28.5%.
    • For those who are traveling for Christmas, the average Christmas trip will be 4.6 days to a destination 597 miles away—although 56.7% will be under 500 miles.
    • Thankfully, there was further progress on the vaccine front. National anxiety levels about contraction of the coronavirus and its impact on personal finances and the economy all dropped. Most notably, there was a 10-point drop in the percent of Americans who feel the coronavirus situation will get worse in the next month. Instead, nearly a third feel the situation will stay the same.
    • The vaccine news appears to continue to have a positive influence on Americans’ travel sentiment for the future. The percent reporting an avoidance of international travel and conventions/conferences are both at 42-week lows, and openness to travel inspiration rebounded. American travelers are saying they will take an average of 3 leisure trips in 2021, with the May-August period the most common for travel.
    • Americans are showing a growing agreement to take the vaccine.
    • With the vaccine distribution timeline increasingly clear, 32.9% of Americans are now in the starting or actively planning a trip stage for 2021.
    • However, the pandemic effects may linger for some time as Americans still express some travel hesitation, even with the vaccines. When asked to describe how they are going to approach getting back into travel in the period immediately after vaccines become widely available to the public, three quarters of American travelers say that they will get back carefully or test the waters first.
    • There is the strongest support among American travelers for vaccine requirements for boarding flights and cruise ships.
    • Don’t forget to register to attend a full update of these findings on Tuesday, December 22nd at 11:00am ET.

    As American travelers answered our survey questions this weekend, daily new coronavirus cases reached nearly a quarter million in the United States. Thus, after a sustained period of skewing towards readiness between August and November, half of American travelers feel their mindset around travel right now is one of hesitation and delay. Only 41.9% feel confident they can travel safely right now, down from a high of 49.7% just two weeks ago. Over half of American travelers continue to say they would feel guilty traveling now and fully 60.0% wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy it if they did. A majority feel traveling on a commercial airline is unsafe (57.5%), while 42.0% feel similarly about staying in a hotel and 49.9% believe staying in an AirBnB or home rental is also unsafe. Nearing half of American travelers (49.4%) report they have cancelled or postponed an upcoming trip specifically due this current surge in COVID cases. The greatest leap in cancellations and postponements caused by this increased outbreak occurred after the Thanksgiving holiday (when the percent jumped from 38.1% to 46.9%) but has incrementally grown each week since.

     

     

    As AAA and other sources are also predicting, Christmas travel will be down significantly from 2019, when nearly one-third of American travelers took a Christmas holiday trip. This week, just 17.4% of American travelers say they will take a trip for the holiday, with 6.9% still unsure. Cancellations of a Christmas trip due to the pandemic were reported by 28.5%, and 45.3% say they have friends or family who would normally travel for the holiday but are not this year. For those who are traveling for Christmas, being with friends and family is, of course, the most common primary reason for their trip, but nearly half say they are also driven by taking a vacation/getaway. While staying in the homes of their friends and family is likeliest, hotels and other lodging will certainly see Christmas travelers. The average Christmas trip will be 4.6 days to a destination 597 miles away—although 56.7% will be under 500 miles.

     

     

    Thankfully, there was further progress on the vaccine front. As Moderna’s vaccine was approved and healthcare workers across the U.S. began receiving the first doses, national anxiety levels about contraction of the coronavirus and its impact on personal finances and the economy all dropped. Most notably, there was a 10-point drop in the percent of Americans who feel the coronavirus situation will get worse in the next month. Instead, nearly a third feel the situation will stay the same.

     

     

    The vaccine news appears to continue to have a positive influence on Americans’ travel sentiment for the future. The percent reporting an avoidance of international travel and conventions/conferences are both at 42-week lows (70.9% and 65.0%, respectively). Openness to travel inspiration rebounded to 5.4 on an 11-point scale after dipping to 4.9 three weeks ago. American travelers are saying they will take an average of 3 leisure trips in 2021. The May-August period looks to be the most common for travel; over 20% say they already have at least tentative trip plans in those months.

     

     

    Looking more deeply into the impact of the COVID-19 vaccine on travel, 49.6% agree they are not traveling until vaccines are made widely available. Fortunately, Americans are showing a growing agreement to take the vaccine. This week, the majority (51.7%) say they will take one of the recently developed vaccines (up from 39.2% the week of November 7th), and 61.6% feel they are safe. With the vaccine distribution timeline increasingly clear, 32.9% of Americans are now in the starting or actively planning a trip stage for 2021. However, the pandemic effects may linger for some time as Americans still express some travel hesitation, even with the vaccines. When asked to describe how they are going to approach getting back into travel in the period immediately after vaccines become widely available to the public, three quarters of American travelers say that they will get back carefully (37.2%) or test the waters first (37.0%).

     

     

    Now that the COVID-19 vaccine is here, new questions about vaccine requirements inevitably arise. There is the strongest support among American travelers for vaccine requirements for boarding flights and cruise ships. Although there is lesser agreement for vaccine requirements for conventions, hotel stays, sports and other live events, support among Americans right now approaches half.

     

     

    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.
    If you need shareable graphics, content for presentations, video presentations and more, please visit our COVID-19 Insights Media page here.

    Rules, Regulations and Restrictions….Oh My!

    New pandemic-invoked travel rules, regulations and restrictions can be challenging to navigate. Of course, in this reality, compliance with these rules is critical to combatting the spread of COVID-19 and keeping people healthy and safe. In terms of how COVID-related travel restrictions have factored into travel this year, the December 14th wave of our Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study found that nearly 70 percent of Americans travelers have had planned trips impacted by the coronavirus situation, and of those whose travel was affected, about 30% reported that government travel restrictions were a reason. Another 10 percent cited COVID-related business/employer-mandated restrictions as a travel disrupter.

     

     

    How do Americans feel about these travel restrictions and regulations? In the November 30th wave of the Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study, we explored American travelers’ support of such restrictions and how these rules could ultimately influence travel behavior.

    At the home community level, over half of American travelers agree or strongly agree that they support the implementation of more restrictive COVID-19 rules in their community (56.4%). Meanwhile, one-in-five do not support more restrictive rules where they live (19.2%).

     

     

    In addition to their support of more restrictive COVID-19 rules in their home communities, over two-thirds agree it’s important for people to follow government restrictions and recommendations related to controlling COVID-19 (68.3%).

     

     

    Although the majority of American travelers are in support of new restrictions and consider it important for people to follow them, how does this affect their travel future? These restrictions are achieving their intention to deter some travel right now in order to prevent further virus spread. Amongst those who live in states that have recently imposed new restrictions, over 30% reported that the new restrictions make them less likely to travel even within their own home states in the next two months.

     

     

    Nevertheless, Americans appear appreciative of these rules. When it comes to how they feel about some U.S. states requiring a negative COVID-19 test or self-quarantining for a period of time, 57.5% approve or strongly approve of these state safety standards.

     

     

    And when asked their opinion if a state they want to visit put into place such restrictions, about one-third indicated that this would make them more or much more comfortable in visiting the state (32.1%)—nearly identical to their comfort level traveling within their home state should their home state implement such restrictions (33.5%).

     

     

    Complying with pandemic-induced rules, regulations and restrictions is imperative to controlling COVID-19 and American travelers are largely understanding and in support of this. Such restrictions and rules even have an added benefit of making some feel more comfortable with travel. And with a COVID vaccine distribution to the public on the horizon, hopefully the necessity of these rules will soon begin to fade.

     

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

    Americans’ anxiety about the coronavirus came on strong again this week, hammering travel sentiment for the near-term. However, news of imminent vaccines are once again having a profound impact on Americans’ outlook for 2021.

     

     

    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 December 11th-13th.

    Key Findings to Know:

    • After dipping last week, Americans’ anxiety about the coronavirus came on strong again this week—both from a personal health and financial standpoint.
    • These anxieties are hammering sentiment about travel right now. Rather than skewing towards readiness, Americans’ travel mindset is now evenly split between readiness and hesitation. Travel guilt, loss of interest in traveling for the time being, and agreement travel should be limited to essential needs only have all increased, while likelihood to travel over the next three months has decreased. Nearing two-thirds of Americans say the current pandemic situation makes them less likely to travel over the next three months. Such sentiments have led to inevitable behaviors–48.4% report they cancelled or postponed a trip specifically because of this current surge.
    • Positive vaccine news is appearing to have a profound effect. 58.9% of Americans are back to feeling that the vaccine developments make them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months, while 51.0% say the vaccines makes them more optimistic they can travel safely by then.
    • The pandemic has, unsurprisingly, most weakened Americans’ sense of physical safety, as well as, sadly, their excitement about the future. However, an important percentage of Americans feels the pandemic has strengthened their feeling of being loved by others, and made them feel proud of themselves.
    • Americans continue to exhibit receptivity to travel marketing for future trips. 50.1% continued to show higher degrees of excitement about taking a getaway soon, and 45.7% continue to have higher levels of openness to travel inspiration. The percent of Americans who recalls seeing a travel advertisement recently has risen steadily since May.
    • Looking at the preferred channels for travel inspiration among those Americans most ready to travel, Facebook and Instagram, search engines and email campaigns is where these travelers will be most receptive.
    • The percent of American travelers who have at least tentative plans to attend a convention or conference in the next year has risen to 23.5% from 15.7% two months ago. Comfort attending these events starts to grow in June 2021 and continues throughout the subsequent months.
    • In our many recent interviews of meeting planners, it looks like hybrid events will be a norm in 2021. Fortunately, among those who have traveled for conventions in the last two years, 51.7% say they prefer in-person events. Yet, greater than one in five of these travelers (22.0%) say they prefer hybrid meetings. However, the destination in which a meeting is held could still sway a preference for in-person.
    • Don’t forget to register to attend a full update of these findings on Tuesday, December 15th at 11:00am ET.

    After dipping last week, Americans’ anxiety about the coronavirus came on strong again this week. The percent of Americans with high degrees of concern about personally contracting the virus jumped up to 73.3% from 66.7%, and the intensity of the concern to 6.9 on an 11-point scale, up from 6.5 last week. In similar fashion, those highly concerned about their friends and family contracting the virus rose to 77.8%, and the average level of concern grew to 7.4 from 7.1. This is the first time during this current surge that these anxieties have reached levels hit during the spring and summer virus surges. With a relief bill still not yet passed in Congress, financial worries also grew, with concern about the virus’ impact on personal finances now at 6.0 and concerns for the national economy at 7.7. While down somewhat from last week, still 60.7% of Americans feels the severity of the coronavirus situation in the U.S. will worsen in the next month.

     

     

    These anxieties are hammering sentiment about travel right now. Rather than skewing towards readiness, Americans’ travel mindset is now evenly split between readiness and hesitation—the last time this occurred was more than three months ago. This week, 54.6% of Americans said they would feel guilty traveling right now and loss of interest in traveling for the time being returned to 49.5% after falling to 43.1% last week. Over 58% feel travel should be limited to essential needs only and 54.8% agree they don’t want travelers coming to their own communities right now. Nearing two-thirds of Americans say the current pandemic situation makes them less likely to travel over the next three months. Such sentiments have led to inevitable behaviors– 48.4% report they cancelled or postponed a trip specifically because of this current surge.

     

     

    Americans did receive a good “dose” of positive news in the last week, however, which is appearing to have a profound effect on their outlook for 2021. Last week the first person outside of trials was vaccinated for COVID-19 and shipments for an FDA approved COVID-19 vaccine began rolling out of a Pfizer plant in Michigan over the weekend. With vaccines imminent, the percent of Americans who say they are not traveling without one leapt up to 49.5% from 40.8% just last week. The percent of Americans who feel the recently developed COVID-19 vaccines are safe jumped to 62.4% from 53.3% last week. Now a study high of 49.6% affirm they will take the recently developed vaccine–up more than 10 percentage points in 5-weeks. 45.2% of parents with children under age 18 say they will vaccinate their children for COVID-19, up from 37.9% last week. Importantly, 58.9% of Americans are back to feeling that the vaccine developments make them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months, while 51.0% say the vaccines makes them more optimistic they can travel safely by then.

     

     

    As Americans look at what the coronavirus has taken away from us, they also see areas of their lives which the pandemic situation has strengthened. The pandemic has, unsurprisingly, most weakened Americans sense of physical safety, as well as, sadly, their excitement about the future. However, an important percentage of Americans feels the pandemic has strengthened their feeling of being loved by others, and made them feel proud of themselves and what they have been able to accomplish. When asked what emotions are priorities for them, two of the top four are happiness and relaxation–things travel still is called to provide when they are comfortable.

     

     

    Americans continue to exhibit receptivity to travel marketing for future trips. 50.1% continued to show higher degrees of excitement about taking a getaway soon, a metric continuing to recover from a low point hit the week of November 16th. And 45.7% continue to have higher levels of openness to travel inspiration. In fact, the percent of Americans who recalls seeing a travel advertisement recently has risen steadily since May—up to 31.1% from 17.8%. When asked how the most recent travel ad they saw made them feel, 56.7% report this ad made them feel happy or very happy. Looking at the preferred channels for travel inspiration among those Americans most ready to travel, Facebook and Instagram, search engines and email campaigns is where these travelers will be most receptive.

     

     

    Looking at the recovery of the meetings industry, the percent of American travelers who have at least tentative plans to attend a convention or conference in the next year has risen to 23.5% from 15.7% two months ago. Just 26.3% said they would be happy if they were asked by their employer to attend a conference within the next six months, while 42.0% would be unhappy. You can see this sentiment when looking at comfort levels in attending such events in each of the next several months. As shown in the chart below, comfort grows in June 2021 and continues throughout the subsequent months. Right now 54.3% of American travelers say they at least somewhat trust other conference attendees to behave in a way that keeps others safe from COVID-19, while 60.7% say they trust the event producers to look out for their health.

     

     

    In our many recent interviews of meeting planners, it looks like hybrid events will be a norm in 2021. It is also important to track the level of threat virtual events pose to the recovery of the convention industry. Fortunately, among those who have traveled for conventions in the last two years, 51.7% say they prefer in-person events. Yet, greater than one in five of these travelers (22.0%) say they prefer hybrid meetings. However, the destination in which a meeting is held could still sway a preference for in-person. 56.7% of convention travelers say that where a convention is held would affect their preference for an in-person versus hybrid meeting.

     

     

    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.
    If you need shareable graphics, content for presentations, video presentations and more, please visit our COVID-19 Insights Media page here.

    Explore! Eat! Engage! and Other Plans for 2021 Travel

    Although the COVID-19 pandemic has crippled travel for ten long months and counting, many Americans are feeling hopeful about the trips they will be able to take in 2021. As part of our industry update webinar on December 8th, Dave Bratton, Destination Analysts’ Founder & Managing Director, interviewed four travelers to shed light on what they are looking for in destinations, the travel messaging that most appeals to them and how they feel about travel in the new year.

    Read on for a summary of what they shared and watch the full panel discussion here:

     

     

    We have not lost our taste for travel. The travelers we interviewed exhibited excitement and optimism about going on trips in 2021. Motivated by fond memories of past vacations, they already have budgets set aside for their next adventure. While some do not have an exact answer on when or where that next trip will take them, these travelers feel confident in their ability to manage the new reality of safety protocols and actually feel comfortable with the change. Lisa from Loganville, GA explains that educating herself and staying on top of science news help her make informed and safe decisions when planning a trip, while she still “tries to remain adventurous.” These travelers even expressed a willingness to book now for trips in the latter part of 2021—this is how enthusiastic they are for travel to return to normal again.

    Travelers want to be wooed. Gently. Travelers are open to hearing about new destinations and receiving inspiration for future trips. While there is no simple answer to the question on how destinations should court potential visitors, advertising that acknowledges the anxiety-ridden situation people are in resonates. This panel of travelers agreed that messages such as, “We know what you are going through! When you are ready, we are here!” or “Please come see us, maybe not right now, but when you are ready. We are waiting for you!” best demonstrate that destinations are not strictly about profit but are considerate and are simply “offering an experience once people are ready.” And what is the best visual way to deliver advertising messaging to travelers? Lisa suggests, “We try to escape. Put up splashy ad campaigns with lots of pretty pictures. Mountains, beaches, etc. Things that catch our attention.” Akiko from Los Angeles, CA suggests to smartly package marketing campaigns with, “Check out deals now and book a package for 2021 or 2022. The deals are great!”

    New experiences are high on the priority list. Describing himself as a traveler, Sam, who lives in Dun Loring, VA, does not hesitate, “Explore! Eat! Engage!” He continues, “I like to meet new people, talk to people, and learn about new cultures and experiences.” Akiko’s feelings are similar, “I’m a gourmet food, fun and excitement hunter when it comes to travel.” Underdog destinations, perhaps previously overlooked, are now enjoying new popularity with people like Charles of Minneapolis, MN, who wants the chance to disconnect completely, as they promise low crowds and off-the-grid experiences. As Charles elaborates, such destinations “have a bigger platform than before and it is a good time for them. That would definitely catch my attention and [if I saw an advertisement] I would definitely do some research.”

    Rule following is critical to the ability to travel until a vaccine is available. These travelers expressed that the majority of Americans now recognize the necessity to comply with safety protocols in order for travel experiences to be available to them. And as a vaccine becomes an option, Lisa believes it will further erase fear and open many doors. “In general, I am very positive about 2021. I think travel-wise there will be an upswing and I am looking forward to it.” When it comes down to it, American travelers have been stuck at home but are ready to spend money on their next adventure.

    We would like to thank Akiko, Sam, Lisa and Charles for sharing their views and the candid conversation.

    As they expressed palpable excitement and enthusiasm for leisure travel, the outlook for 2021 is clearly positive. Both travelers and destinations alike should have much to look forward to in the upcoming year.