Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of November 30th

Nearly 14% of Americans report they took a trip for Thanksgiving 2020. Although government-imposed restrictions and virus anxieties are acting as a depressant on travel sentiment right now, 44% of American travelers agree they are taking a major vacation after a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available, and Americans’ Destination Hot List is looking nearly identical to pre-pandemic times.

 

 

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 November 27th-29th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Nearly 14% of American travelers report that they took a Thanksgiving trip. Nearly one-in-five Americans say they plan to take a Christmas holiday trip.
  • In terms of how Americans are feeling about the virus, many emotions remain largely unchanged, with anxieties about personally or loved ones’ contracting the virus and the pandemic’s impact on personal and national economics in an elevated but stable period that have not reached the peak levels seen during the two prior surges in March and July.
  • Such concerns are still impacting Americans’ current travel marketability. Americans’ openness to travel inspiration has been on a steady decline since October 18th and fully half of American travelers say they have lost their interest in traveling for the time being.
  • The focus of some recent news stories on pandemic behaviors in specific travel destinations is also acting as a sentiment depressant. In the past month, 35.8% of Americans report they have seen one or more COVID-19 related reports in the media about travel destinations where people were behaving in a manner that would make them feel uncomfortable visiting.
  • While a majority agree with new/reinstituted travel and other COVID related restrictions and agree it’s important people follow them, these restrictions are achieving their intention to deter travel right now.
  • Still, the worst of this latest surge’s impact on travel behavior may be passing or at least be in a temporary reprieve. The percent of American travelers who report they have cancelled or postponed any upcoming leisure trips because of the recent increases in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has dropped to 38.1% from 47.4% two weeks ago, and now 56.3% say recent increases in COVID-19 cases around the country have made them less likely to travel in the next three months–down from 62.8% in the same period.
  • Reports of vaccine developments also continue to provide Americans hope about their travel future. Over 44.2% agree that their “first trip after a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available will be a vacation, likely to a place far from my home.”
  • This week 80% of American travelers have at least tentative trip plans for the future. The pandemic clearly still weighs heavy, with confidence travel can be done safely, easy cancellation policies and relaxation the top motivational attributes for taking a trip.
  • However, when asked where they most want to travel to in the next 12 months, the Hot List looks nearly identical to pre-pandemic, with Florida, New York, California, Hawaii and Las Vegas coming out on top.
  • COVID-19 testing will likely remain part of American travel behaviors for the near future.
  • Don’t forget to register to attend a full update of these findings on Tuesday, December 1st at 11:00am ET.

With the fourth major travel holiday of the pandemic passing amongst a litany of restrictions and warnings, the burning question is: did Americans take trips for Thanksgiving 2020? Nearly 14% said they did—a rate similar to Labor Day weekend. About half of these Thanksgiving travelers plan to quarantine for some period after their trip while the other half will resume their normal activities. As we look ahead to December, nearly one-in-five Americans say they plan to take a Christmas holiday trip.

 

 

In terms of how Americans are feeling about the virus, many emotions remain largely unchanged. Anxieties about personally or loved ones’ contracting the virus and the pandemic’s impact on personal and national economics are in an elevated but stable period that have not reached the peak levels seen during the two prior surges in March and July. Over 60% of Americans continue to believe the pandemic is going to get worse in the next month.

 

 

Such concerns are still impacting Americans’ current travel marketability. Americans’ openness to travel inspiration has been on a steady decline since October 18th, when it hit a pandemic peak, but is now at 4.9 on a 0-11 scale. This week, fully half of American travelers say they have lost their interest in traveling for the time being, and 62.0% say if they were to travel right now, they wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy it.

 

 

The focus of some recent news stories on pandemic behaviors in specific travel destinations is also acting as a sentiment depressant. In the past month, 35.8% of Americans report they have seen one or more COVID-19 related reports in the media about travel destinations where people were behaving in a manner that would make them feel uncomfortable visiting. Unsurprisingly, 79.8% of those who have seen reports of such behaviors say that this news makes them less interested in visiting these destinations.

 

 

The significant increase in cases has resulted in new or returning consumer restrictions around the United States. Over half of Americans reports that their local community has instituted more restrictive COVID-19 rules in the past month and over half feel more restrictions are coming. Just under one-third say new travel restrictions have been imposed where they reside, and just over one-third say they would be more comfortable traveling within their home states under such restrictions. And while a majority agree with new/reinstituted restrictions and agree it’s important people follow government restrictions and recommendations related to controlling COVID-19, these restrictions are achieving their intention to deter travel right now. 29.4% of those with trip plans cancelled or postponed by the pandemic say this was due to government travel restrictions and over 30% said new travel restrictions make them less likely to travel even within their own states in the next two months.

 

 

Still, the worst of this latest surge’s impact on travel behavior may be passing or at least be in a temporary reprieve. The percent of American travelers who report they have cancelled or postponed any upcoming leisure trips because of the recent increases in COVID-19 cases in the U.S. has dropped to 38.1% from 47.4% two weeks ago, and now 56.3% say recent increases in COVID-19 cases around the country have made them less likely to travel in the next three months–down from 62.8% in the same period. This week 55.5% have returned to a readiness (versus hesitation) state-of-mind about travel.

 

 

Reports of vaccine developments also continue to provide Americans hope about their travel future. A majority of Americans still feel the latest vaccine news makes them more optimistic they can travel safely in the next six months. Over 44.2% agree that their “first trip after a COVID-19 vaccine becomes available will be a vacation, likely to a place far from my home.”

 

 

This week 80% of American travelers have at least tentative trip plans for the future. In trying to understand what will motivate Americans to take trips, we requested those we surveyed to imagine that a friend or family member came to them with an idea to travel together in the next six months, and then asked what possible attributes of their friend’s travel idea would be most persuasive to get them to go. The pandemic clearly still weighs heavy, with confidence travel can be done safely, easy cancellation policies and relaxation the top motivational attributes. However, when asked where they most want to travel to in the next 12 months, the Hot List looks nearly identical to pre-pandemic, with Florida, New York, California, Hawaii and Las Vegas coming out on top.

 

 

COVID-19 testing will likely remain part of American travel behaviors for the near future. 28.7% of those who have traveled by air during the pandemic said they tested themselves after their most recent commercial airline trip. Nearly 40% of Americans say they plan on taking a COVID-19 test prior to taking their next trip.

 

 

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.

Moving the Travel Industry Forward on “Destinations. Passport to Travel & Hospitality”

Listen in on the recent episode of radio show Destinations. Passport to Travel & Hospitality, featuring Dave Bratton, Destination Analysts’ Founder and Managing Director.

With a mission to serve as the broadcast voice of tourism, talk radio show Destinations. Passport to Travel & Hospitality features thought leaders and industry professionals who discuss current and emerging trends and technologies that influence transactional decisions. During the November 15 episode of Destinations. Passport to Travel & Hospitality, our Founder & Managing Director Dave Bratton spoke with radio show host Kurt Burkhart, Founder and Managing Consultant of Destination Strategies Group, to discuss how current knowledge and recent findings from Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study can be utilized to move the industry forward in a positive and a sustainable way. The episode also features Ryan George, CEO of Simpleview, Robert Rauch of hospitality insights website Hotel Guru and CEO of RAR Hospitality, and Steve Paganelli, Head of Destination Marketing, Americas at TripAdvisor, who shared their perspective on the current state of the travel and hospitality industry.

Click below to tune in to the November 15 episode of Destinations. Passport to Travel & Hospitality.


Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of November 23rd

As Americans head into Thanksgiving week—the fourth major travel holiday during this pandemic—record COVID-19 cases across the country continues to devastate sentiment about near-term travel and the industry’s ability to inspire new, incremental trips. However, there are indicators that the impact on travel may not be as deep or long-lasting as previous surges.

 

 

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 November 20th-22nd.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Anxiety about contracting the virus continues to rise. 62.9% feel things are going to get worse in the next month and only 13.5% feel it will get better.
  • This continues to devastate sentiment about near-term travel and the industry’s ability to inspire new, incremental trips. 61.9% of American travelers continue to agree that the current surge in cases has made them less likely to travel in the next three months. The percent of Americans who agree they have lost their interest in travel for the time being is now approaching half.
  • The poor course of the pandemic also appears to be affecting sentiment towards ski/snowboard travel this season. Fewer ski/snowboard travelers feel that a ski/snowboard trip is safe this 2020/2021 season than did in October. However, over two-thirds of these travelers say that the institution of pandemic protocols would make them more interested in taking a ski/snowboard trip this season.
  • Nevertheless, there are indicators that the impacts of this current virus surge on travel may not be as deep or long-lasting as previous surges. The perception of travel activities as unsafe, engagement in travel avoidance overall, avoidance of international travel specifically and avoidance of conventions are still not near peaks hit in July and April.
  • Looking locally, over 40% of Americans feel comfortable going out for leisure activities in their own communities. While 56.1% do not want tourists coming to their community right now, this sentiment is also not at July and April levels. Perhaps in a nod to lessons learned in previous stages of the pandemic, 61.5% agree they support more restrictive COVID-19 rules being implemented in their home community.
  • Americans continue to report having trips planned over the next year (82%).
  • As they look to where they want to travel to over the next year, Americans are most commonly reporting that relaxing, fun, memorable, affordable and comforting are important attributes in the destinations they consider.
  • The latest vaccine news has made 58.1% of American travelers more optimistic about life returning to normal (or near normal) in the next six months.
  • We wish you and yours a happy and safe Thanksgiving!

As Americans head into Thanksgiving week—the fourth major travel holiday during this pandemic—average daily coronavirus cases have spiked to more than two times what they were in July (during the previous summer surge in cases), and American deaths from COVID-19 cases surpassed a quarter of a million. Anxiety continues to rise, as 74.4% of Americans have a high degree of concern about their friends/family contracting the virus and 69.4% are highly concerned about contracting it themselves. Americans’ pessimism about the virus’ course in our country is now back at the level it was when we headed into the July Fourth weekend, with 62.9% feeling things are going to get worse in the next month and only 13.5% feeling it will get better.

 

 

This continues to devastate sentiment about near-term travel and the industry’s ability to inspire new, incremental trips. This week, 61.9% of American travelers continued to agree that the current surge in cases has made them less likely to travel in the next three months. The percent of Americans who agree they have lost their interest in travel for the time being is now approaching half—up 6 percentage points in the past month and at a level last seen in July. Six-in-ten American travelers continue to feel they would not be able to fully enjoy travel right now, and nearly 52% say they would feel guilty traveling, up 5 percentage points in a week. Americans’ state of mind around travel also took a dip after holding constant for the last two weeks, with those in a readiness mindset falling to 53.9%.

 

 

The poor course of the pandemic also appears to be affecting sentiment towards ski/snowboard travel this season. Fewer ski/snowboard travelers feel that a ski/snowboard trip is safe this 2020/2021 season than did in October (56.9% vs 62.5%). However, over two-thirds of these travelers say that pandemic protocols such as requiring guests to book their ski dates in advance and limiting the number of people allowed on the mountain make them more interested in taking a ski/snowboard trip this season.

 

 

Nevertheless, there are indicators that the impacts of this current virus surge on travel may not be as deep or long-lasting as previous surges. While the perception of travel activities as unsafe has crept up in the last two weeks (54.3%), it is still not near peaks hit in July (60.6%) and April (69.4%). Similarly, engaging in travel avoidance until the coronavirus situation is more resolved at 56.3%, not hitting prior surge peaks of 62.1% (July) and 82.8% (March). The avoidance of international travel specifically is at 75.2%, still a ways from how Americans were feeling in July (80.2%) and April (82.1%). Avoiding conventions and conferences is at one of the lowest points it’s been in the pandemic—falling below 70% for the first time since June 7th. Looking locally, over 40% of Americans feel comfortable going out for leisure activities in their own communities—more than twice the number than in the early stage of the pandemic. While 56.1% do not want tourists coming to their community right now, this sentiment is also not at July and April levels. Perhaps in a nod to lessons learned in previous stages of the pandemic, 61.5% agree they support more restrictive COVID-19 rules being implemented in their home community.

 

 

Americans continue to report having trips planned over the next year. In fact, over 82% have at least tentative plans for travel, with fully 17% saying they plan to take a trip at the start of summer 2021, in June.

 

 

As they look to where they want to travel to over the next year, Americans are most commonly reporting that relaxing, fun, memorable, affordable and comforting are important attributes in the destinations they consider.

 

 

The recent news about COVID-19 vaccines also has Americans feeling some optimism. While just 28.9% felt it was likely we would have a vaccine developed by the end of 2020 on November 8th, now 57.1% do. This week, 58.6% believe a vaccine that is developed will be safe (up from 50.3% at the beginning of the month) and 46.2% say they definitively would take a vaccine. The latest vaccine news has made 58.1% of American travelers more optimistic about life returning to normal (or near normal) in the next six months. Interestingly, with a COVID-19 vaccine looking more realistic for the near future, more Americans are saying they won’t travel without a vaccine–46.6%, up from 38.2% at the start of November.

 

 

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.

How US Border Destinations are Faring with COVID-19’s Impact

Until the COVID-19 pandemic upended the world we knew, cross-border travel along our Canadian and Mexican borders had been a way of everyday modern life. In addition to the important cultural contributions, this travel was quite a significant contributor to the US economy. In 2019, of the 79.3 million international visitors to the United States, 20.7 million were from Canada and 18.1 million were from Mexico, representing $20.6 and $17.6 billion in spending in the U.S. As coronavirus cases surged in April however, the United States, Mexican and Canadian governments agreed to limit all non-essential travel across borders. As of this week, this order has been extended until December 21st.

To more deeply understand the impact of the border restrictions and what we can learn about the resumption of international travel, Destination Analysts’ Senior Research Director, Myha Gallagher, led a discussion with four DMO professionals from border destinations on what they’re currently seeing in their destinations and what they expect for the future.

Read below for our key takeaways and watch the full discussion here:

 

 

What We Learned

Our Integrated Economy is at Risk

The four DMO panelists refer to the border regions between the US and Canada and Mexican borders as a binational economy. As Ed Healy, Vice President of Marketing for Visit Buffalo Niagara, described: “traditionally there has been a great back and forth. We have been particularly dependent on the Canadian consumer for many, many years.”

By the numbers, these DMO professionals are seeing great loss from these border travelers:

– Buffalo (Northeast continental US) and Bellingham Whatcom County (Northwest continental US) are seeing similarities in that Canadians not only come to spend time in their destinations on a leisure trip but they also cross the border to take advantage of the good exchange rate. Ed shared, “[In Buffalo] our largest shopping mall estimates that 35-40% of their customers are Canadian.” Additionally, Ed communicated that the “Buffalo-Niagara Airport relies tremendously on Ontario-based consumers who use our airport.”

– Sandy Ward, President & CEO of Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism, reported similar figures for her destination that “Canadian shopping such as gas, food and clothing comprises 41% – 44% of our retail sales and 60-73% of fuel tax revenue from border towns in the county rely on Canadians purchasing gas.” Ultimately, retail sales in these communities are down considerably. Sandy said “Retail sales [in Whatcom County] have fell between $54-65 million in Q1 and Q2 2020 due to COVID restrictions—a 6% decline in retail sales.”

– Impact along the Mexican border has been similarly devastating. Prior to the pandemic, Tucson (60 miles north of Mexico and considered to be a border zone) welcomed millions of Mexican visitors annually. Felipe Garcia, Executive Vice President of Visit Tucson, explained, “75% of Mexican visitors primarily come to Tucson to shop and spend $1 billion every year in my community.” The impact goes far beyond shopping. Felipe noted, “They are coming here to see the doctor, because they have businesses and buying second homes.” Looking specifically at communities closer to the border, Felipe shared their dire state in that “It is like a ghost town. We are starting to see boarded up windows because they can’t continue their business operations. We need those tax dollars.”

– San Diego also benefited greatly pre-COVID. Susan Bruinzeel, Senior Director of Planning & Research at San Diego Tourism Authority, shared, “We have the busiest border crossing in the world with 55 to 60 million annual northbound crossings along the San Diego and Tijuana border.” Additionally, San Diego’s airport has a land bridge at the Tijuana border which allowed these visitors to fly to other destinations in the US with ease. Susan indicated, “This was a large marketing opportunity for us. 4 million day-visitors for shopping, visiting attractions and family and half a million staying overnight in private home and hotel stays pre-COVID.”
 

 

Travelers Are Adapting, Maybe Permanently:

Travelers are developing other travel habits. Sandy explained, “The closure is going to have long-term impact on shopping travel behavior because they have formed some new habits. We think Canada is enjoying keeping Canadian dollars in Canada.”

With shopping being a huge reason why Mexicans and Canadians have historically visited the United States, new habits could potentially negatively impact the infrastructure currently in place. But these challenges are also seen as an opportunity. Felipe said, “Mexicans were behind in their online shopping and had a huge leap. In Tucson, we’re offering a service where people can buy online and sales tax is generated in Tucson.”

Even with the pandemic keeping the borders closed, these DMOs are actively staying in communication with nearby border communities. Felipe’s approach is to “host a 3-4 segment on two different new outlets based on the needs for communication,” while Ed is staying active by “connecting with social media followers and through newsletters. We plan to start ramping up next year.” And Sandy shared they “would like to mount a major campaign once border restrictions have been lifted.”

Culturally, there is an expectation that this will remain in tack as Susan indicated, “the binational piece, the maquiladora industry is not likely to change.”
 

 

We Have a Long Way to Go Before Travel is Back to Pre-Pandemic Levels

With the way the pandemic is going right now, these DMO professionals remain unsure when borders will reopen. Noting the dependence on policies outside their control, as Felipe said, “We don’t have CDC guidelines on how to reopen the border.”

Ed indicated that opening the border is “highly dependent on the effectiveness of the vaccine and consumer confidence.” Sandy expressed concerns that she has heard that even if the border was open, we may not see increased visitation because “the US must get the virus under control.”

However, given these challenges, the DMOs remain optimistic. “Right now we have the wait and see approach,” Sandy shared.

We are extremely thankful for the insights shared by our panelists Ed, Felipe, Sandy and Susan. We are looking forward to when cross-border travel can resume!

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of November 16th

The alarming trajectory of the pandemic in the U.S. has hit travel sentiment and trip plans hard for the near-term, but American optimism about the safety of 2021 travel soared on Pfizer’s vaccine announcement.

 

 

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 November 13th-15th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • As daily cases exceeded 180,000 in the last few days, Americans’ concerns about contracting COVID-19 rose right alongside. 60.7% believes the pandemic will be getting worse in the next month; just 14.3% feels it will get better.
  • The trajectory of the pandemic continues to depress how Americans feel about travel for the near-term, with excitement levels for taking a potential getaway in the next month and openness to travel inspiration declining, while loss of interest in travel for the time being and guilt traveling increase.
  • This latest surge in COVID-19 cases has resulted in actual trip cancellations and postponements (47.4%), as well as the loss of trips that may have come to fruition if the pandemic was on a better course. Now 62.8% express that what’s happening with the pandemic has made them less likely to travel in the next 3 months.
  • While feelings about travel in the short-term may be depressed, there continue to be positive indicators for travel’s future. The perception of travel and leisure activities as unsafe has not gone back up to peak levels recorded in July and April. Americans’ travel state-of-mind remained steadfast.
  • In total, 23.1% of American travelers have taken a trip by air during the pandemic and 58.1% have taken a road trip. Nearly three-in-ten say they plan to take a holiday season-related trip. In addition, nearly 80% have at least tentative trip plans for some time in the next year.
  • Over 60% of American travelers said Pfizer’s announcement that their experimental vaccine is likely more than 90 percent effective at preventing the Coronavirus disease made them more or much more optimistic that they can travel safely in 2021. For the nearly half of American travelers who say they would feel guilty traveling right now, two-thirds of this group says an effective vaccine would assuage this guilt.
  • When American travelers were asked to name a celebrity or public figure that they think would be best to market a national coronavirus vaccine program, Dr. Anthony Fauci, came out on top.
  • We are reminded this week about the positivity of travel on human culture. Nearly half of American travelers say they are likely to support minority-owned businesses on their next trip, and over half are likely to support businesses that they believe make a positive societal impact wherever their travels take them next.
  • Don’t forget to register to attend a full update of these findings on Tuesday, November 17th at 11:00am ET.

As daily cases exceeded 180,000 in the last few days, Americans’ concerns about contracting COVID-19 rose right alongside. Americans are especially concerned about their family and friends getting the virus. Those in the Northeastern region of the country continue to express the strongest concerns about this, now followed by those in the Midwest. Americans are back to where they were in July in their pessimism—60.7% believes the pandemic will be getting worse in the next month; just 14.3% feels it will get better.

 

 

The trajectory of the pandemic continues to depress how Americans feel about travel for the near-term. Those with high excitement levels for taking a potential getaway in the next month plummeted over 7 percentage points since last week, and openness to travel inspiration also declined to the lowest level it has been since August 9th. The percent that agree they have lost their interest in travel for the time being increased to 46.2% from 43.1% in the last week. About 60% of American travelers say they wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy travel, and nearly 47% say they would feel guilty traveling right now.

 

 

This latest surge in COVID-19 cases has resulted in actual trip cancellations, as well as the loss of trips that may have come to fruition if the pandemic was on a better course. The proportion of American travelers that said they cancelled or postponed a trip because of the increasing cases has jumped to 47.4% from 41.8% in a week. Now 62.8% (up from 60.2%) express that what’s happening with the pandemic has made them less likely to travel in the next 3 months.

 

 

While feelings about travel in the short-term may be depressed, there continue to be positive indicators for travel’s future. American travelers’ concerns about the pandemic’s impact on their personal finances is at one of the lowest levels it has been during the pandemic (54.8% have elevated concerns). The perception of travel and leisure activities as unsafe has not gone back up to peak levels recorded in July and April. Travel also continues to happen. In total, 23.1% of American travelers have taken a trip by air during the pandemic and 58.1% have taken a road trip. Nearly three-in-ten say they plan to take a holiday season-related trip. In addition, nearly 80% have at least tentative trip plans for some time in the next year, although over a third are eyeing May 2021 or later. Americans’ travel state-of-mind remained steadfast, with 57.1% expressing readiness versus hesitation.

 

 

Perhaps the best news the travel industry has received in a long while was pharmaceutical company, Pfizer’s announcement that their experimental vaccine is likely more than 90 percent effective at preventing the Coronavirus disease. Indeed, over 75% of American travelers took this as good or great news, with 60.9% saying the announcement made them more or much more optimistic that they can travel safely in 2021. Now 42.0% of American travelers say if a COVID-19 vaccine is developed later this year (or early next year) and approved for use they would take it, up from 39.2% last week. For the nearly half of American travelers who say they would feel guilty traveling right now, two-thirds of this group says an effective vaccine would assuage this guilt.

 

 

Inspired by NPR’s recent story on how Elvis Presley was used to help market the polio vaccine, we asked American travelers we surveyed to name a celebrity or public figure they feel would be best to market participation in a national vaccine program. The responses were as interesting and varied as America itself, but with our National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director, Dr. Anthony Fauci, coming out on top.

 

 

Finally, we are reminded this week about the positivity of travel on human culture. Nearly half of American travelers say they are likely to support minority-owned businesses on their next trip, and over half are likely to support businesses that they believe make a positive societal impact wherever their travels take them next.

 

 

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.

The Present & Future of Live Events

They are exhilarating. They raise our spirits. They bring us together. But the future of in-person concerts, festivals and live events is currently uncertain. Although 75 percent of those Americans who actually attended a live event since the onset of the pandemic in March felt “safe” or “very safe” at said event, nearly nine-in-ten American travelers report they have not purchased any tickets for an upcoming live event. Moving forward, how can the event production world deliver the thrill and the magic, while keeping us socially distant and safe? Destination Analysts Senior Research Director, Myha Gallagher, interviewed three major event producers who shared what they foresee to be the future of live events for the short and long term. Read below for our key takeaways and watch the full discussion here:

 

 

Our Key Takeaways:

 

Promoters avoid pushing the envelope, especially as cases rise in some states where a live event was held. Notes Chad, “Because cases keep going up in those states, it’s more of a dire warning on why it is important to be smart and safe about opening.” For those determined or obligated to hold an event during the pandemic, their large network of promoters reinforces the idea to do so under the strictest guidelines possible.

There are challenges filling venues even when going above and beyond safety requirements. As Becca explains, “It is difficult to get artists who feel comfortable coming onto the forum and it is difficult to find consumers who are interested in putting themselves at risk. Even when going every extra mile to make sure that it is incredibly safe.”

Enforcing mandates & protocols requires a hearty amount of vigilance and effort. Not wearing a face mask at all times, not wanting to stay seated and dancing too close at a concert is now an offense which prompts immediate removal. Promoters and venues have a zero tolerance policy when it comes to endangering lives, thus making these new and extra monitors on attendees behaviors a lot of work. Make their job easier by following the rules required of you.

Drive-in shows offer communities a safe and enjoyable experience. They also provide a great opportunity for artists to perform on stage, showcase their music/art and interact with the audience. However, revenue is derived from sponsorship instead of ticket sales and profit margins are thin. Nevertheless, Dawson feels that,
“It’s great to be able to offer the community something to do.”

On-site testing is currently too costly to be a real solution. When asked about the potential impact of rapid on-site testing for entry as a solution for getting live events back sooner, these three shared that the cost per test is still far too high for consumers’ tolerance.

There may be a limit to demand for pre-recorded/ virtual events. The entertainment industry is considering various ways to provide the consumer with a variety of virtual entertainment experiences. However, Dawson thinks that, “There’s so much effort being put into creating the illusion of connection, which is what people go to events for. And I think that all the gimmicks of virtual events are going to start to wane as people realize ‘I really just want to be around another human.'”

Lingering concerns about event-goers and artists contracting the virus, as well as collective pressure not to promote in-person events has coordinators pushing back in regards to holding live events. While promoters were initially expecting events to pick up in the spring of 2021, they are now realizing that in-person live events, especially large-scale events, might not resume until 2022.

The love for live events is enduring. Despite 2022 looking more like their reality on the return, Dawson is optimistic pointing out that, “We are getting creative. There are a lot of interesting ideas that are sort of percolating in the live event production world.” Chad adds that they plan on holding the events that have been getting pushed along by the pandemic, “Company-wide we have seen that 86 percent of ticket buyers are not seeking refunds. They want to hold on to their tickets to go to these future events. That is something we feel really hopeful about.” Sharing their optimism for a 2022 revival is Becca, “Once everybody starts to do it again, it’ll be a snowball effect and then the industry will be booming.”

Many thanks to Dawson, Becca and Chad for the great conversation. We hope to be dancing and singing along at one of their events soon.

The Rough Road for Millennials During the Coronavirus Pandemic

 

It is no secret that the coronavirus pandemic has taken a toll on our lives, our priorities and our emotions. In the 34th wave of our Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study, we asked American travelers about their lifestyle priorities over the next six months and how they’ve been recently feeling.

When asked how they will prioritize each of several aspects in the next six months—similar to when we have asked this question in the past—staying safe from infection is what American travelers will most prioritize, with 78.6% who currently say that it is a high or essential priority. And this is followed by emotional well-being, finding joy, relaxation and escape from stress—all of which are aspects that travel can certainly deliver.

In looking at this recent data by generation, Baby Boomers are the likeliest to prioritize staying safe from infection in the next six months, while Millennials are least likely to do so. Meanwhile, when it comes to escaping stress and making money, these are much higher priorities for Millennials than for Boomers. This perhaps is not so surprising, as Millennials appear to be the most stressed out generation. On a 10-point scale from “1=No stress” to “10=Severe, frequent stress,” Millennials reported an average daily stress level of 6.2 in the last month, while Baby Boomers reported a lower average stress level of 4.7. Millennials are more stressed, and escaping stress in the next six months is a high priority.

 

 

During the last month, American travelers have more commonly experienced positive emotions. They reported feeling happy, calm or relaxed, grounded and content or satisfied “most of the time” or “often.” Meanwhile, negative leaning emotions, such as staying up at night worrying and persistent loneliness, are less prevalent.

There are certainly generational differences when it comes to these recent feelings and emotions. Baby Boomers were more likely to feel positive emotions—including happy, calm, grounded and content—while Millennials, who experience higher levels of stress, were more likely to report recently feeling negative emotions. In addition to their higher propensity to feel worry and loneliness, Millennials were also likelier than their older counterparts to feel tired or worn out, bored, like they want to get away from where they are, sad, agitated, easily upset and like they want to get as far away from home as possible.

 

 

While the coronavirus has presented many challenges, it appears that Millennials have been experiencing an especially tough time. In addition to their propensity to feel negative emotions in the past month, Millennials have also experienced sleep disturbances or changes in their sleep pattern since the emergence of the coronavirus. Over half of Millennials “sometimes” or “frequently” experienced sleep disturbances since the onset of the pandemic, compared to one-third of Baby Boomers (51.3% vs 32.3%).

However, despite the rough road for Millennials, there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. Millennials are more optimistic about the coronavirus situation, with a higher likelihood than Baby Boomers to agree that “things are going to get better soon” (38.4% vs. 30.0%) and that the situation will be resolved before the end of the year (22.2% vs. 9.5%).

 

Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of November 9th

Americans are feeling somewhat more hopeful about the pandemic and travel, but the recent surge has diminished some potential trip volume that may have occurred. An approved vaccine continues to be very promising in bringing a segment of travelers back and increasing travel overall. In the meanwhile, most still want to see people masked in travel ads.

 

 

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 November 6th-November 8th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • While Americans overwhelmingly remain in an elevated state of anxiety, fewer feel the coronavirus situation is going to get worse in the next month, the perceptions of travel activities as safe rebounded, and excitement for a potential getaway, openness to travel inspiration and the ability of discounts to motivate travel all improved.
  • Nearly 6-in-10 Americans have returned to a readiness state of mind around travel.
  • A pandemic-high 36.5% of American travelers say they would be happy—or very happy—to see an ad promoting tourism to the place where they live. However, the desire to see people wearing masks in all travel ads has remained strong.
  • The current surge is not without its impact: 60.2% say that the recent increases in COVID-19 cases around the country have made them less likely to travel in the next three months and 41.8% report that they have cancelled or postponed an upcoming leisure trip because of the worsening of the pandemic in the U.S.
  • Nevertheless, eight months into the pandemic, Americans do exhibit signs of adapting towards regaining normalcy, needing fewer circumstances to feel comfortable returning to their pre-COVID lifestyle.
  • Since September, there has been a 5% decrease in the percent that affirm they would take a COVID-19 vaccine that is developed this year or in early 2021 (39.2%), but the length of time Americans say they prefer to wait to take an approved vaccine has lessened.
  • If a COVID-19 vaccine was required before traveling, nearly 60% of American travelers said this would make air travel feel safer and nearly 50% said they this would make cruise travel feel safer. In addition, 36.7% of American travelers say the availability of an official document confirming COVID-19 inoculation would make them more—or much more—likely to travel in the next 12 months.
  • When asked about the COVID-related protocols they feel are absolutely necessary to feel comfortable attending special events and festivals, desires are similar to retail businesses, in that they want masking, frequent cleaning and limited crowd sizes to ensure social distancing is possible.
  • Don’t forget to register to attend a full update of these findings on Tuesday, November 10th at 11:00am ET.

Americans spent much of the last week awaiting election results and watching COVID-19 continue to set new records in our country–hitting the highest daily number of new cases since the pandemic began. While Americans overwhelmingly remain in an elevated state of anxiety, they may be feeling slightly more hopeful. This week, somewhat fewer feel the coronavirus situation is going to get worse in the next month (58.7% down from 60.9%). After worsening for two weeks, the perceptions of travel activities as safe rebounded back to pandemic-period low levels. Excitement for a potential getaway and openness to travel inspiration improved, as did the ability of discounts and price cuts to motivate travel. Less Americans agree that they wouldn’t be able to fully enjoy it if they traveled right now, dropping 5% in the last two weeks (60.1% to 55.1%). Thus nearly 6-in-10 Americans have returned to a readiness state of mind around travel.

 

 

With their desire for travel inspiration returning and their comfort going out for leisure in their own communities growing, now 36.5% of American travelers say they would be happy—or very happy—to see an ad promoting tourism to the place where they live. This exceeds the percent that would be unhappy by over 8% and represents a pandemic-period record high. However, given the vast majority of Americans who have high degrees of concern about personally or friends/family contracting coronavirus, their desire to see people wearing masks in travel ads has remained strong. When asked how they would advise advertising agencies about the use of masks in travel advertisements, nearly half said everyone in the ad should wear a mask. Another quarter says it depends, but people should be wearing them when appropriate. Just 14.5% advised that no one should wear masks in travel ads.

 

 

Given the pandemic’s heavy influence on travel sentiment and behavior, the current surge is not without its impact. The percent with high degrees of concern about the virus’ impact on their personal finances and the greater economy increased this week. And the surge looks like it has diminished the potential volume of travel that could have occurred. Looking at the percent of Americans who have traveled since the onset of the pandemic in March, it appears that still only around half are traveling. Now 60.2% say that the recent increases in COVID-19 cases around the country have made them less likely to travel in the next three months. Unfortunately, 41.8% report that they have cancelled or postponed an upcoming leisure trip because of the worsening of the pandemic in the U.S.

 

 

Nevertheless, eight months into the pandemic, Americans do exhibit signs of adapting towards regaining normalcy. When asked what they need to feel comfortable going back to their normal (or near-normal) lifestyle, notably fewer need a number of circumstances to be in place compared to than in the first phase of the pandemic in April.

 

 

However, the one area nearly 47% of Americans have remained steadfast in needing to return to their normal lifestyle is a COVID-19 vaccine–although the percent agreeing they need a vaccine to do any travel has been on the decline for the last four weeks (38.2%). Since September, there has been a 5% decrease in the percent that affirm they would take a vaccine that is developed this year or in early 2021 (39.2%), but the length of time Americans say they prefer to wait to take an approved vaccine has lessened, so that 30% feel they now need less than three months. When vaccines become available, they continue to be very promising in bringing a segment of travelers back and increasing travel overall. If a COVID-19 vaccine was required before traveling, nearly 60% of American travelers said this would make air travel feel safer and nearly 50% said they this would make cruise travel feel safer. In addition, 36.7% of American travelers say the availability of an official document confirming COVID-19 inoculation would make them more—or much more—likely to travel in the next 12 months.

 

 

Prior to the pandemic, nearly one-third of American travelers took trips specifically to attend a special event or festival, and these travelers are likely hoping for the return/recovery of these live events. When asked about the COVID-related protocols they feel are absolutely necessary to feel comfortable attending such events, desires are similar to retail businesses, in that they want masking, frequent cleaning and limited crowd sizes to ensure social distancing is possible.

 

 

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.
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Coping with Pandemic Stress & Anxiety


 

The ongoing COVID-19 rollercoaster can present new challenges to our mental well-being and overall health. Of the negative impacts the pandemic continues to have on our lives are the disruption of social relationships and the travel we were used to using to maintain these. Dr. Jonathan Horowitz, clinical psychologist and founder of the San Francisco Stress and Anxiety Center, joined us last week as part of our weekly webinar update on the latest findings from our Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study to share tips on how we can better deal with stress and anxiety while maintaining our sanity in these unprecedented times.

You can watch the video here or continue reading for 3 key takeaways that emerged from the discussion led by Destination Analysts’ President & CEO, Erin Francis-Cummings.

There are multiple ways to manage stress and emotions, especially in difficult times. Dr. Horowitz notes that it is imperative to have a good routine in place to keep us staying active. Exercise, yoga, meditation, or whatever it is that helps us de-stress. He advises not to “have our mind play tricks on us when we are in the trenches and we feel embattled, because we feel that we have to put every second into fighting the fight. That’s how people get burned out and that’s how people wind up making bad decisions.” Dr. Horowitz also stressed the importance of social connections. Seeing friends—taking time to be with people we care about and who care about us—is restorative and “really powerful.” Vacations and trips to see friends and relatives are, obviously, a great way to make these connections. However, he emphasizes that other ways to de-stress include simply taking breaks over the course of the day, such as going for a walk at lunchtime. In his words, we’re not meant to “work, work, work, and not do anything else.”

Get creative around travel. Travel, in particular, is an outlet to recover from ongoing stress and recharge our mind and soul. But with the current coronavirus situation, there are multiple factors that limit the ability to take vacations, which can actually be a big source of distress. According to Dr. Horowitz, “Vacations are really restorative and they’re good for your productivity too. You step away from work and you come back at it and you’re fresh and you have new ideas. You’re looking at things differently.” So what can we do to build resilience, stay productive and avoid fatigue? Dr. Horowitz encourages his patients to consider their risk tolerance, discover their comfort level and get creative. As he shared, “Maybe you can’t do the trip that you ideally want to do. You can’t get on a plane and go to Paris. But you could get in a car and you could drive somewhere. You could stay in an Airbnb. There are all sorts of ways that you could make trips happen, you just need to be creative about it.”

“Workcations” are great opportunities to support mental health. While many are forced to work from home during the pandemic, why not combine work with pleasure and re-locate the virtual workspace to a tropical beach or a panoramic alpine retreat? “Workcations” are a promising new development and creative destinations are coming up with programs and ways to make it possible. Dr. Horowitz points out that it is a great opportunity from a mental health perspective, “There’s something really good about getting out and getting away from your regular environment. I think it offers really good relief, while also allowing you to be productive.” However, Dr. Horowitz advises to set boundaries when it comes to time management, “Don’t go there and then just work the entire time. Be really mindful and intentional about ‘this is the vacation period of the day and this is the work period of the day,’ so you don’t find yourself out on a [hiking] trail and checking work email or a work call. That’s not necessarily healthy. You’re not going to reap the benefits emotionally nor from a resilience perspective because you’re still engaged. You need to make sure you have your time for fun and your time for work.”

An Outlook on the 2020 Holiday Shopping Season and Beyond


 

 

Deck the Halls! The 2020 holiday shopping season is upon us. How will the retail sector fare in these unprecedented times? We researched American retail behavior as well as feelings regarding shopping during the pandemic. The latest findings from Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study indicate that in-person shopping is perceived as a relatively safe activity, with nearly half of Americans who consider it either “safe” or “very safe” (47.5%). Nevertheless, 8.4% state that they will shop for holiday gifts exclusively in-person, while 31.6% say they will only shop online for holiday gifts this year. When it comes to the absolutely necessary safety measures Americans require to feel comfortable shopping in a retail store, the top two are face masks required for all customers (68.8%) and staff (63.6%). Highlighting an opportunity for retailers, 46.8 percent of online-only holiday shoppers reported that they could potentially be convinced to go gift shopping in a brick-and-mortar store if stores improve their COVID-19 safety protocols.

As part of our weekly webinar presenting insights from our Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Study, Destination Analysts’ Senior Research Director, Myha Gallagher, interviewed a panel of retail professionals who shared their understanding of consumer behaviors and what they foresee for the short and long term.

You can watch the video of the discussion here, or continue reading for 5 takeaways that emerged from this insightful panel discussion.
 
The current situation of retailers varies by sector. Customer confidence and merchandise sales are slowly improving for most retailers thanks to their local followers and loyal customers. Nevertheless, the situation remains largely challenging for most retailers due to inventory expenses and quickly pivoting investments. The leisure and outdoor sector, however, has been experiencing an exponential increase in sales. As Keri Hanson of Theisen Supply Inc. explains, “These types of retailers have really benefited from that movement for a more outdoors lifestyle – sporting goods, home and garden. There is this whole trend, about getting a new smoker, getting a new grill, getting some patio heaters and hanging out with people in your backyard instead of a traditional tailgate. This sector has really seen a big growth.” For some sectors, the recovery will not be fast enough, especially for airport vendors and retail operators. As Rob Wigington, Executive Director of the Airport Restaurant & Retail Association, notes, “They are scrambling, trying to figure out how to serve the very few travelers that are coming through.” He elaborated by sharing that waiting out the pandemic and adjusting to new consumer needs appear to be the only options if Congress fails to pass a relief legislation for the aviation sector.

Brick-and-mortar stores are primarily seeing local business, however there are indications that out-of-towners are returning to shop. With road-trips currently the most common type of travel, many retailers are welcoming visitors. According to Taylor Safford, President & CEO of PIER 39, “There are a lot of road trippers out there and we’re actually seeing a lot of people coming from the Central Valley, Sacramento, Los Angeles and San Diego in-state.” Similarly, Keri adds that the pandemic has contributed to a rise in consumers in the Midwest, “Traditionally about 10 to 15% are out-of-market, so out of our regional trade area. And we’ve definitely seen an uptick in that percentage, so closer to about 22%.”

The upcoming holiday shopping season looks promising. As some restrictions were lifted, consumers are increasingly going to stores to shop. In addition to observing the desire to interact with people and have human contact, Lorenzo Perez of Everlane commented that “It’s about giving little gifts for the holiday season and something that’s affordable and our prices are very transparent. There’s a higher conversion rate these days, especially because shoppers are much more purposeful when they come in and they are purchasing more.” These purposeful shoppers also consolidate their trips during the pandemic, focusing on conducting all their purchases in a single trip this holiday season. When it comes to safety, especially on Black Friday, clear safety guidelines around mask-wearing and social distancing should be established to ensure consumer safety and confidence.

Safety is key in attracting in-person holiday shoppers. Corresponding with our findings indicating that improved in-store safety protocols can sway 46.8 percent of online shoppers to shop in-person, Taylor recommends, “It is safety first when it comes to retail. People have to feel like they’re going to be able to have a safe encounter with the retailer. But they also clearly – and our numbers show this very strongly – people want to have fun. They are tired of being at home, they want to normalize their lives again to the degree that it’s safe to do so and so if you can create a space in your store, or in the appearance of your store location, so that it is enticing and skews to the safety factors, I think people will make a special trip to go and patronize your store.”

Change is inevitable. Having a profound impact on every aspect of commerce as well as our personal happiness, COVID-19 poses a challenge when it comes to remaining positive and optimistic about the future. Rob says, “I think folks have learned a lot of lessons and are still adjusting and adapting. Everybody who operates any kind of retail or export business has had to make some major adjustments, trying to preserve cash and trying to cut costs. They’ve got to really focus on what you can sell the people. It’s a good opportunity.” Lorenzo believes that, “People do want to get out! I want to get out! I do think it will change and will evolve next year and it’ll be interesting to see how that happens and what other changes companies will have in store for the retail employees and customers.”