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

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

IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel—specifically in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic—and explored a variety of topics. The key findings presented below represent data collected May 6th-8th.

Key Findings to Know:

  • Vaccination continues: 57% of American travelers are now fully vaccinated against COVID-19, and a record 72.1% say they have or intend to be vaccinated. With the approval of vaccines for ages 12-15 announced last week, over half will have their children take a vaccine (53.5%, up 4 percentage points from last week).
  • Coronavirus anxiety—both from the health and financial perspectives—remains lower than any other period during the pandemic. In fact, the proportion of Americans now unconcerned reached record-highs. Meanwhile, pessimism about the pandemic’s course in the U.S. reached a record-low (10.9%).
  • The returning belief in travel’s safety remains strong. Three-quarters of American travelers have confidence they can travel safely right now, and a record-high 40.5% say they will NOT be avoiding any travel until the pandemic is over. Half of American travelers say they won’t feel guilty traveling right now, either.
  • Over 70% of American travelers are highly excited by the prospect of near-term travel and highly open to travel inspiration. More than three-quarters of American travelers say their state-of-mind around travel is “READY.” Nearly 35% of American travelers researched travel ideas online in the last week, a pandemic-record.
  • Over 90% of American travelers have trip plans right now, and plan to take 3.0 leisure trips this year, on average. More than 75% will take a trip within the next 3 months.
  • Consumer expectations about travel prices may have started to catch up with the reality of the demand. The proportion who believe travel prices will be low this summer declined, and is now outweighed by the proportion who feel this will not be the case.
  • Despite excitement for a return to normalcy, travel marketers would be wise to factor in the more lasting effects of the pandemic on travelers’ attitudes, and thus consequent behaviors. Many travelers report that the pandemic has changed them, leaving them more budget and safety conscious, and generally more on their guard. Compared to their pre-pandemic selves, three-quarters say they are now more safety conscious, 45 percent feel they are now more budget conscious, and fully 58% say they have an elevated concern that “something could go wrong” on their upcoming trips.
  • Travelers say the pandemic has changed them in other ways, including being much more interested now in outdoor activities and being close to nature. Careful trip planning will likely be more important to travelers in the post-pandemic world, with nearly 40% now more into this behavior. As was realized early on, the pandemic has most challenged growing customer bases for cruises, as well as amusement parks and cities. Of the activities we tested, traveler interest in cruising has taken a significant overall decline (33.9%). The results are less dramatic for amusement parks and cities, but overall about as many travelers say they have lost interest in these experiences as have gained interest in them as a result of the pandemic.
  • The pandemic has also disrupted trust in travel information, although fortunately American travelers are more likely to say the pandemic has left them more trusting in information sources available to them (38.1%) than less trusting (23.8%).
  • In good news for the meetings and convention industry, avoidance of these events reached a record-low (53.2%).
  • Local support of tourism keeps growing, as well. The proportion who don’t want travelers in their community remains under 40%. Anticipated happiness of seeing a travel ad about their community rose again, this time to 56.8%, the highest level recorded in the pandemic.
  • Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. Need assets for a presentation or something else? Find all the presentation decks from our ongoing traveler research here—new decks posted each Tuesday afternoon. And please join us every Tuesday at 11:00am EST for a live presentation of the latest insights into traveler perceptions and behaviors.

    We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers.

    To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

    Have a question idea or topic you would like to suggest we study? Let us know!

    We can help you with the insights your tourism strategy needs, from audience analysis to brand health to economic impact. Please check out our services here.

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

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

    IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel—specifically in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic—and explored a variety of topics. The key findings presented below represent data collected April 30th – May 2nd.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • It was yet another record week for consumer sentiment in travel’s recovery.
  • Record vaccinations: Now nearly 7-in-10 American travelers have or plan to get vaccinated from COVID-19. Just over half (51.5%) of American travelers report now being fully vaccinated—and nearly 90% of these vaccinated travelers are now comfortable with the idea of traveling, another pandemic record.
  • Strong optimism: Near-term expectations for the pandemic situation improving in the U.S. grew dramatically this week. The percent of American travelers feeing the next month would see improvements grew to 59.4%, up from 44.35% last week.
  • Record feelings of safety in the pandemic era: The trend in feeling safer about travel accelerated this week. The rating of over two dozen travel & leisure activities as “unsafe” fell to a record-low 30.4%. Confidence in travel’s safety hit a pandemic-record 45.8%.
  • Record support for local tourism in the pandemic era: Travelers are also feeling safer in their own communities, with 65.6% saying they’re comfortable going out in their home communities, another pandemic record. When asked how they would feel seeing a travel advertisement for their home community, 54.6% said they would be happy or very happy. A record-high 26.9% say they “disagree” that they don’t want tourists coming to town, and those agreeing with this sentiment dropped to a low of 39.8%.
  • Enthusiasm for travel at 1-Year High: Travel readiness hit a pandemic-record 77.0% this week. Now 73.5% of American travelers say they have high levels of excitement about travel this year, up from 65.0% last week. Meanwhile, rejection of travel guilt hit a record-high 47.6%.
  • More Boomers join in on the travel excitement: Despite being among the first groups to be vaccinated, for the last few months, our research had shown a majority of Boomers being more modest in their sentiments around travel. But this week, Boomers had the greatest growth in their travel marketability index score, relative to any other segment we track.
  • Record travel dreaming, planning and booking this year: In the last week, a record 80.2% of American travelers dreamt or planned travel, including 21.6% who made reservations or bookings—another record. Among the bookers, 52.1% reserved a hotel room and 43.1% bought airfare. Now an incredible 76.5% expect to travel in the next 3 months, and anticipated travel spending in this time frame reached a record $1,768.
  • The outlook for summer travel grew even stronger: About 87% of American travelers expect to be taking trips this summer, be it a vacation, visiting friends or relatives, business trip or meeting at a conference.
  • Travelers expect this summer travel season to be a busy one: With the exception of small towns/villages and rural destinations, more than half of traveling consumers expect destinations to be (very) busy or crowded this summer. In fact, nearly 75% expect beach/resorts destinations to be crowded. A majority of Americans also expect it to be busy at a number of venues and places, from museums to concerts to sporting events. Interestingly, after airports and flights, Americans expect the most crowding at bars and nightclubs in Summer 2021.
  • Consumer price expectations haven’t caught up to demand expectations: Despite anticipating that it will be busy pretty much everywhere this summer, a notable proportion of travelers are expecting travel costs to be moderate. About half (49.6%) agree that travel companies will keep prices “reasonable” this summer, and 40.4% even feel it will be a “buyer’s market” this summer. Despite over two-thirds of travelers expecting it to be busy for air travel and in hotels, over 40% expect prices for airfare and lodging to be lower than normal. And discounts and deals as a travel motivator hit a pandemic-record 55.5%.
  • Cities keep on the recovery trajectory: Now 41.2% of those traveling for leisure in the next 3 months say they will be visiting cities, up from 35.9% last week.
  • The top 3 most common desires for travel this year (notably different from 2020): Chill-out/Decompress, Experience Beautiful Places, Do New things/Visit New Places.
  • Wanting more inspiration and more from influencers: This week, American travelers also report being more open to travel inspiration, with 71.2% saying they were excited to learn about new destinations and travel experiences (up from 62.7% last week). Nearly a quarter of all travelers—and well over a third of Millennial and younger travelers—report using digital influencers as part of their travel process, primarily those who are honest, provide new ideas and specialize. The most common trip decisions influencer-users were motivated by these personalities to make were for destinations to visit, restaurants and hotels.
  • Follow us on social for infographics of these and other key findings. Need assets for a presentation or something else? Find all the presentation decks from our ongoing traveler research here—new decks posted each Tuesday afternoon. And please join us every Tuesday at 11:00am EST for a live presentation of the latest insights into traveler perceptions and behaviors.

    We appreciate your support of this research from our small but mighty team of devoted tourism researchers.

    To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.

    We can help you with the insights your tourism strategy needs, from audience analysis to brand health to economic impact. Please check out our services here.

    The Hotel Industry’s Road to Recovery

     

     

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

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

     

    Key Takeaways:

     

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

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

     

     

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

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

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

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of April 26th

    Even more Americans than last month—over 70%—are now saying “YES!” to summer vacation. From fewer trips to less concern about crowds, the pandemic both wanes and lingers in travelers’ psyches and consequent trip decisions.

    IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and explored a variety of topics. The findings presented below represent data collected April 23rd-25th.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • Americans’ anxiety about contracting the virus and the pandemic’s financial impact are the lowest they have been.
  • Americans’ perceptions of travel activities as unsafe dropped again this week to another coronavirus-era low—now at just 35.1%, down from 57.8% in January and 69.4% one year ago. Over 43% say they would not feel guilty traveling right now—another pandemic record.
  • Seven-in-ten Americans are in a ready-to-travel state of mind and two-thirds say they are highly open to travel inspiration. In the last week, over 75% have actively dreamt and/or planned travel, including the nearly 18% who made a booking or reservation for an upcoming trip.
  • American travel is indeed definitively on the rise. As of this week, nearly 88% have at least tentative leisure trip plans right now and over 71% will be taking at least one trip within the next 3 months. In fact, the typical American traveler is likely to take nearly 2 leisure trips by the time August rolls around.
  • Now 71.6% of American travelers say they will take a Summer vacation or getaway, up nearly 10 percentage points from last month and up nearly 36 percentage points from 2020. Across all American travelers, the average number of leisure trips being taken this Summer is 1.7, with July the peak month.
  • Over 70% of Summer travelers plan to head out of state (and one-in-ten will travel abroad) so, while car is still the predominant transportation method, 34.2% will be getting on an airplane. Beaches remain the top destination and planned activity, although 27.3% say they will be visiting cities. Restaurants and retail stores look to be attracting tourists this Summer, as well.
  • Interestingly, Americans are split in their expectations for travel prices this season. While 36.3% agree prices will be low this Summer, 30.6% disagree. Nevertheless, two-thirds of Summer travelers will actively look for discounts and 58.8% say such deals are important to their travel planning.
  • Still, the pandemic lingers in Americans’ mindset. While 43.6% say the number of summer trips they are taking this year is what they would do normally—and over a quarter say it’s even more—nearly one-third of American travelers say their summer trip volume is less than a typical non/pre-pandemic year for them. When asked for reasons as to why they are not planning more travel this summer, the top 2 cited were directly pandemic-related.
  • And yet, the pandemic is also in retreat in Americans’ psyche. When asked the important attributes in destinations they will choose to visit this year, the percent saying “uncrowded” has fallen 20 percentage points since June 2020 (now at 33.5%). Also in decline is the percent saying they want a place that isn’t overly commercialized.
  • When asked what they most want out of travel this year, Americans are largely looking to escape and relax, experience beautiful places, do new things and visit places they have been dreaming of.
  • It has been one year since the height of cumulative concerns about coronavirus and thereby travel and leisure. With over half of American adults at least one dose into their COVID-19 vaccine as of this week (and 60% of travelers), Americans’ anxiety about contracting the virus and the pandemic’s financial impact are the lowest they have been. Americans’ perceptions of travel activities as unsafe dropped again this week to another coronavirus-era low—now at just 35.1%, down from 57.8% in January and 69.4% one year ago. Over 43% say they would not feel guilty traveling right now—another pandemic record.

     

     

    American travel is indeed definitively on the rise. Seven-in-ten Americans are in a ready-to-travel state of mind and two-thirds say they are highly open to travel inspiration. In the last week, over 75% have actively dreamt and/or planned travel, including the nearly 18% who made a booking or reservation for an upcoming trip. As of this week, nearly 88% have at least tentative leisure trip plans right now and over 71% will be taking at least one trip within the next 3 months. In fact, the typical American traveler is likely to take nearly 2 leisure trips by the time August rolls around.

     

     

    With April coming to a close, Summer 2021 draws even nearer. Last month we were able to report that many American travelers are saying “YES” to summer vacation, and the number has grown even further in the four weeks since. Now 71.6% say they will take a vacation or getaway between Memorial Day and Labor Day, up nearly 10 percentage points from last month and up nearly 36 percentage points from 2020. Across all American travelers, the average number of leisure trips being taken this Summer is 1.7. July remains the peak month, with over half of American travelers planning to take one or more trips in that month. Only 36.4% say their very first Summer trip is well-developed already; about 44% have not yet made any major trip reservations yet for their Summer travel yet. Over 70% of Summer travelers plan to head out of state (and one-in-ten will travel abroad) so, while car is still the predominant transportation method, 34.2% will be getting on an airplane. Beaches, of course, remain the top destination and planned activity, although 27.3% say they will be visiting cities. Restaurants and retail stores look to be attracting tourists this Summer, as well. Interestingly, Americans are split in their expectations for travel prices this season. While 36.3% agree prices will be low this Summer, 30.6% disagree. Nevertheless, two-thirds of Summer travelers will actively look for discounts and 58.8% say such deals are important to their travel planning.

     

     

    Still, the pandemic lingers in Americans’ mindset. While 43.6% say the number of summer trips they are taking this year is what they would do normally—and over a quarter say it’s even more—nearly one-third of American travelers say their summer trip volume is less than a typical non/pre-pandemic year for them. 43.7% even plan to staycation. When asked for reasons as to why they are not planning more travel this summer, the top 2 cited were directly pandemic-related—safety concerns about contracting COVID-19 and that the pandemic is not 100% over. The amount of people traveling this Summer is also deterring some, as are COVID-related restrictions, protocols and limited openings.

     

     

    And yet, the pandemic is also in retreat in Americans’ psyche. When asked the important attributes in destinations they will choose to visit this year, the percent saying “uncrowded” has fallen 20 percentage points since June 2020 (now at 33.5%). Also in decline is the percent saying they want a place that isn’t overly commercialized. Instead, Americans are focused on finding places that are fun, memorable, relaxing, affordable, warm and comforting. Indeed, over these next 3 months, Americans are as likely to visit cities on their trips as small towns and beaches. When asked what they most want out of travel this year, Americans are largely looking to escape and relax, experience beautiful places, do new things and visit places they have been dreaming of.

     

     

    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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    Not Just a Niche—Sustainability is Moving Towards the Norm of Travel Expectations

     

     

    One of our key areas of focus in tracking critical travel trends—and one of the last posts we published—before the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic ravaged the travel industry, was the impact of climate change and the way it is and will affect travel decision-making.

    Looking at our latest traveling consumer data on perceptions of climate change and the desire for sustainable tourism, in one year, the percent of American travelers who say that tourism has an overall negative impact on the environment has grown 10 percentage points, from 17% to 27%. Over half of American travelers now say they “sometimes,” “usually,” or “always” think about the environmental impact of their travel. In addition, 37.0% believe that climate change will have a significant impact on their leisure travel in the next 5 years.

    These sentiments are particularly pronounced among younger travelers—a fact which becomes even more important when you consider how soon this group will take over as travel’s largest economic generators. Millennial and Gen Z are more conscious of the environment and thus more conscious of their behaviors—including travel’s—impact on it. Nearly 43% say that climate change has already impacted their travel decision-making in the last five years and half say that climate change will have significant impact on their leisure travel in the next five. These travelers are also twice as likely to frequently think about the the environmental impact of their travel right now.

    With these clear indicators about growing seriousness of climate change, we will continue designing our consumer research to help answer this paramount question: when will sustainability take over as the top influencer of travel decisions?

    “Irrational Exuberance”? The Current State of Affairs for Global Concessionaires

     

     

    There may very well be few businesses in the travel and tourism industry that were left unscathed in the global pandemic’s path. Airport concessionaires are certainly not among them. Often taken for granted, airport concessionaires can be the highlight of extensive wait times and long-haul travel, serving everything from light refreshments and delicious dinners, to reading materials, gifts or anything else travelers’ hearts might desire. And over the past year, airport restaurants and retailers have been fighting a fierce battle for survival.

    Following our industry update webinar on April 13th, David Reichbach, Destination Analysts’ Senior Director of Analytics and Data Security, led an illuminating, yet sobering panel discussion with global leaders in travel restaurants and retail stores. Carlos Bernal, Chief Executive Officer at Areas USA, John Cusagi, Vice President of Marketing at Paradies Lagardère and Pat Murray, Executive Vice President at SSP America graciously joined us to share their outlook on travel recovery, the challenges they’re currently facing and the long-term changes they anticipate for the future. You can watch the discussion in this video and find our key takeaways below.

     

     

    Key Takeaways:

     

    The current state of the world for global concessionaires is “irrational exuberance.” After a year of isolation, travelers are ready to leave their homes and venture out, a trend that is expected to continue throughout the summer months. It has permeated the travel industry with an air of optimism, however some anxiety remains and it is unclear whether this “exuberance” is justified. With uncertainty about sustained wanderlust and when business travel will resume to pre-pandemic levels comes challenges around long-term forecasting and operational planning. While these global concessionaire leaders expressed hope in soon rising out of the pandemic cloud, they also questioned whether their current experiences are a result of “irrational exuberance.”

    Like many businesses, tourism-reliant restaurants and retailers are struggling with the inability to plan. As much as they would love to hire employees, travel trends aren’t completely steady and thus, airport restaurants and retailers aren’t able to accurately predict how much staff they will need and when. Particular to their businesses, it takes several weeks to hire and badge airport employees, which is a challenge as more restaurants and stores re-open. In addition, the panel of global concessionaires voiced concerns about being pushed to open too soon while also balancing the momentum of keeping operations running.

     

     

    Health and safety protocols are here to stay. Careful measures towards health, safety and cleanliness were well in progress prior to the onset of the coronavirus, but have been significantly accelerated as a result of the pandemic. Often in the spotlight when it comes to travel, concessionaires are keen to have the best practices around health and safety. And with the pandemic “the one silver lining is it’s pushing businesses to do some very good things faster.”

    Technology has been changing, and will continue to change, consumer purchasing behaviors. Frictionless transactions through one’s mobile phone potentially eliminate taking out one’s wallet or credit card and interacting with restaurant and retail staff. In general, more air travelers are ordering food through their phone, which competes with ordering at a sit-down casual restaurant or quick-service counter. Similarly, automated retail allows consumers to select and receive exactly what they want from a machine and will become much more prominent in pre and post-security areas. Nevertheless, the panel of global concessionaire executives were optimistic that personal experiences, such as ordering a drink at the bar and chatting with the bartender, will return in due time.

    Destination Marketing Organizations can best support airport concessionaires by leading the conversation around travel. Reminding people why they travel and the benefits of travel can really help them feel more comfortable. Within the larger conversation of travel, DMOs should promote health, safety and cleanliness. As mentioned during the panel discussion, airlines and airports are “doing everything they possibly can to ensure that it is a safe environment, both on the plane and in the airports. Not only for our teammates and but also for the traveling public. So the more we get that messaging out there, the better.”

    A Look at Marijuana in Tourism on 4/20

     

     

    Even with the theater the humans in the election created, it was marijuana who was largely seen as the prime victor in last November’s election. Marijuana was approved for recreational or medicinal use in 6 more states, so now there are only 15 states that outlaw marijuana in any form. This embracing of marijuana legalization is something policy experts attribute to a strong shift in consumer perceptions about the plant and the products people make with it.

    The merits of legalized marijuana, of course, have been discussed and debated for several years in the tourism industry. Many destination marketers embrace it for the tax revenues it brings and that, by and large, the tourists who patronize legal marijuana establishments have been desirable ones. In studying marijuana in tourism over the last several years through our quarterly The State of the American Traveler study, we consistently found that it was Baby Boomers who were the likeliest to purchase or consume marijuana while traveling.

    In honor of April 20th, or 4/20—the holiday celebrating marijuana culture, we asked the 1,200 American travelers we surveyed last weekend about their recent travel to states in which marijuana is legal and their purchase of marijuana while traveling. In total, almost 30% of American travelers said they have taken a leisure trip in the past two years to a state in which marijuana has been legalized. Among the travelers who have visited such states, a whopping 51.4% have purchased marijuana and/or marijuana-based products while traveling. Bring on secondary impacts of the munchies, and there may be some significant tax revenue these tourists are accountable for. 🙂

     

     

    Update on American Travel in the Period of Coronavirus—Week of April 19th

    It’s another week of pandemic-era record setting for Americans’ travel readiness, confidence in travel’s safety, trips planned and even support of tourism in their own communities. In more good news, as business travel continues to recover, there is a welcome retreat in the impact of the pandemic on corporate travel policies.

    IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and explored a variety of topics. The findings presented below represent data collected April 16-18th.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • Although coronavirus cases are rising in nearly half of the U.S., Americans’ COVID anxiety grew only mildly. Even in the Midwest, which is particularly affected by the latest growth in cases, levels of COVID concern remained relatively stable; in fact, it is those in the Northeast who continue to exhibit the highest levels of COVID concerns.
  • Ongoing vaccinations combined with optimism about the future have contributed to another week of record setting in travel readiness and safety. Americans’ confidence in their ability to travel safely reached a pandemic record, as did the perception of travel activities as safe. Now 72% say they are in a ready-to-travel mindset—up nearly 20 percentage points since the start of the year.
  • Three-quarters of American travelers did some travel planning and dreaming in the past week alone, with 16.4% actually making a reservation or booking. Of these bookers, over half made a hotel reservation, nearly a fifth reserved a vacation home/Airbnb and a third bought airline tickets.
  • Over 75% of American travelers will take at least one trip in the next 3 months, and a record 88% have at least tentative travel plans for the future.
  • Americans are also showing that they are open to even more travel beyond what they may currently have planned. Nearly two-thirds have a high excitement level about the prospect of a trip they had not previously considered, and similarly 63.4% are highly open to travel inspiration right now.
  • For travel marketers to reach and capitalize on the high rates of excitement and openness to inspiration, fortunately, American travelers are showing a receptiveness to travel messaging in a variety of channels, including social, print, streaming and direct. TikTok, a rising star throughout the pandemic, is growing as a channel for travel influence, with nearly a quarter of younger travelers saying it is an ideal place to reach them.
  • Americans are demonstrating increased happiness on seeing their own communities advertised for tourism, reflecting a larger trend in support of travel.
  • Well over half of those who took a road trip in the pandemic era say their experience has made travel by car more appealing—a sentiment that is even stronger among Millennial and younger travelers. The road trip is likely to sustain its popularity as travel recovers.
  • There continues to be more good news about still-slow-but-recovering business travel. Now 56% of those employed by companies in which there is business travel say that this travel has resumed, up 8 percentage points from last month. Perhaps most importantly, the extent of the perceived lasting changes to business travel appears to be retreating.
  • Although coronavirus cases are rising in nearly half of the U.S., Americans’ COVID anxiety grew only mildly. Even in the Midwest, which is particularly affected by the latest growth in cases, levels of COVID concern remained relatively stable; in fact, it is those in the Northeast who continue to exhibit the highest levels of COVID concerns. Also, despite the pause in Johnson & Johnson vaccine administration, two-thirds of American travelers still say they have or plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine. Of those who report receiving a vaccine, over 70% say they are now fully vaccinated. This combined with optimism about the future (47.6% feel that the pandemic situation will improve in the next month) have contributed to another week of record setting in travel readiness and safety. Americans’ confidence in their ability to travel safely reached a pandemic record, as did the perception of travel activities as safe. Now 72% say they are in a ready-to-travel mindset—up nearly 20 percentage points since the start of the year.

     

     

    The growth in a readiness mindset has led to an increase in the dreaming, planning, booking—and actual doing of —travel. Three-quarters of American travelers did some travel planning and dreaming in the past week alone, with 16.4% actually making a reservation or booking. Of these bookers, over half made a hotel reservation, nearly a fifth reserved a vacation home/Airbnb and a third bought airline tickets. Over 75% of American travelers will take at least one trip in the next 3 months, and a record 88% have at least tentative travel plans for the future. Americans are also showing that they are open to even more travel beyond what they may currently have planned. Nearly two-thirds have a high excitement level about the prospect of a trip they had not previously considered, and similarly 63.4% are highly open to travel inspiration right now.

     

     

    For travel marketers to reach and capitalize on the high rates of excitement and openness to inspiration, fortunately, American travelers are showing a receptiveness to travel messaging in a variety of channels. However, save for email and online articles/blogs, desired channels for travel content and advertising are highly impacted by age. Social media is most common for younger travelers, who are open to travel messaging on a variety of these platforms, while older travelers remain largely committed to Facebook. TikTok, a rising star throughout the pandemic, is growing as a channel for travel influence, with nearly a quarter of younger travelers saying it is an ideal place to reach them, surpassing Twitter. Television remains a top source to reach travelers, with younger travelers on streaming services and older travelers on broadcast. Search engine marketing also remains key for travel marketing, particularly to reach older travelers. An important proportion of travelers—even the younger ones—are looking to print resources like travel & lifestyle magazines, as well.

     

     

    Americans are even demonstrating increased happiness on seeing their own communities advertised for tourism, reflecting a larger trend in support of travel. This week, a record 50.4% said they would feel happy if they saw an ad promoting where they live as a place for tourists to come visit. Conversely, a record-low 39.5% said they aren’t ready for tourists in their community yet.

     

     

    As we continue to study the ongoing and lingering effects of the coronavirus pandemic on travel attitudes and behaviors, this week we looked at whether and how road trips—the archetype of travel in the COVID era—would sustain its level of popularity. Two-thirds of American travelers road tripped during the pandemic, taking 2.5 of these trips on average. Over 62% of these pandemic-era road trippers agreed that this travel reminded them of how much fun road trips can be. Thus, well over half also say their pandemic road trip experiences have made travel by car more appealing. Interestingly, this sentiment was even stronger among Millennial and younger travelers, 60.5% of whom said that travel by car is now more appealing.

     

     

    Finally, there continues to be more good news about still-slow-but-recovering business travel. Now 56% of those employed by companies in which there is business travel say that this travel has resumed, up 8 percentage points from last month. Perhaps most importantly, the extent of the perceived lasting changes to business travel appears to be retreating. Somewhat fewer business travelers report that the pandemic will change the way their employer does business travel (47% down from 50% in March). The ways business travelers expect changes are also largely down from last month, with less feeling there will be fewer business trips taken and the replacing of trips with virtual meetings.

     

     

    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 April 12th

    Many Americans are still in pandemic mode when it comes to booking travel, expecting shorter booking windows, often less than 4 weeks out. This week we can celebrate that the appeal of attending in-person meetings has improved, although the majority of business travelers still needs at least a few more months before they are ready to be back.

    IMPORTANT: These findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency. Every week since March 15, 2020, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, and explored a variety of topics. The findings presented below represent data collected April 9th-11th.

    Key Findings to Know:

  • Americans have been exhibiting a lessening optimism over the last month, after reaching a pandemic peak the week of March 14th.
  • Nevertheless, fear about travel has continued on a course of steady decline. Of the travel and leisure activities we track, only a handful remain perceived as unsafe by a majority of American travelers. In fact, the average perception of these activities as unsafe is down 20 percentage points from January 1st—a pandemic record low (37.9%).
  • More than two-thirds have a “ready-to-travel” state-of-mind and this readiness has resulted in a lot of travel plans. Over 86% of American travelers currently have at least tentative leisure travel plans and 72.8% expect to travel for leisure within the next three months alone.
  • In terms of what is motivating Americans to travel right now, while relaxing, getting away from their daily life and spending time with family remain important, about half are highly seeking escaping boredom, having new experiences and visiting new places they have never been. One-third are out to party while a quarter are even traveling specifically to meet new people.
  • As Americans look out on their travel in the months ahead, many iconic tourism spots—Florida, New York, Las Vegas, Hawaii, California—top their lists of the domestic destinations they most want to visit, including popular cities, from Chicago to New Orleans.
  • In terms of Americans’ timing on booking travel, the pandemic’s impact can still be seen. In total, 45.7% say they will make reservations closer to their travel date than they would in a normal year. Over 40% of travelers who will be making hotel, car rental, attraction and event bookings say they will be doing so less than 4 weeks out. Even 28.5% of upcoming air travelers say they will purchase their flights less than a month before travel.
  • Looking at the types of travel Americans have planned for the next quarter, leisure travel is indeed leading the recovery with 52.4% planning a vacation or getaway and 36.8% traveling to visit friends or relatives. Business travel is further back in recovery. Right now, 13.6% of American travelers say they will be taking a business trip in the next 3 months and 11.4% say they have a convention/group meeting trip.
  • This week we can celebrate that the appeal of attending in-person meetings has improved. Over 54% of business travelers say they would be happy if their employer asked them to attend an in-person conference, convention or group meeting in the next six months. This is nearly double what was recorded last August.
  • Still, a meetings industry rebound may be further into the future. Two-thirds of business travelers feel it won’t be until this summer or later that they will be comfortable attending in-person meetings. The majority (56.4%) of business travelers still would prefer a virtual meeting to an in-person one if it were happening this month. Only 20 percent say they would prefer an in-person event right now.
  • As of this week, over 27% of the U.S. adult population is vaccinated against COVID-19 and the proportion of Americans highly concerned about their family or friends contracting the virus is now at an all-time low. Yet with cases rising in some regions and the pandemic ongoing, Americans have been exhibiting a lessening optimism over the last month, after reaching a pandemic peak the week of March 14th. Compared to a month ago, those who feel the coronavirus situation in the U.S. will improve over the next four weeks has declined nearly 15 percentage points (45.5% from 60.3%), while nearly twice as many now feel things are going to get worse (21.3% from 11.1%). Nevertheless, fear about travel has continued on a course of steady decline. Of the travel and leisure activities we track, only a handful remain perceived as unsafe by a majority of American travelers. In fact, the average perception of these activities as unsafe is down 20 percentage points from January 1st—a pandemic record low (37.9%). Those who would NOT feel guilty traveling now exceeds those who would (39.1% vs 36.7%). And more than two-thirds have a “ready-to-travel” state-of-mind.

     

     

    The readiness around travel has resulted in a lot of travel plans. Over 86% of American travelers currently have at least tentative leisure travel plans and 72.8% expect to travel for leisure within the next three months alone. In terms of what is motivating Americans to travel right now, while relaxing, getting away from their daily life and spending time with family remain important, about half are highly seeking escaping boredom, having new experiences and visiting new places they have never been. One-third are out to party while a quarter are even traveling specifically to meet new people.

     

     

    As Americans look out on their travel in the months ahead, many iconic tourism spots—Florida, New York, Las Vegas, Hawaii, California—top their lists of the domestic destinations they most want to visit, including popular cities, from Chicago to New Orleans.

     

     

    In terms of Americans’ timing on booking travel, the pandemic’s impact can still be seen. In total, 45.7% say they will make reservations closer to their travel date than they would in a normal year. Over 40% of travelers who will be making hotel, car rental, attraction and event bookings say they will be doing so less than 4 weeks out. Even 28.5% of upcoming air travelers say they will purchase their flights less than a month before travel. Given the high demand for travel, this short booking window preference may have consequences. Nevertheless, booking continues at a steady pace. This week, 13.9% of American travelers said they had made a travel reservation or booking in the last seven days.

     

     

    Looking at the types of travel Americans have planned for the next quarter, leisure travel is indeed leading the recovery with 52.4% planning a vacation or getaway and 36.8% traveling to visit friends or relatives. Business travel is further back in recovery. Right now, 13.6% of American travelers say they will be taking a business trip in the next 3 months and 11.4% say they have a convention/group meeting trip (Note: if we look at the business traveler segment alone, one-third say they will be taking a business trip this quarter). In a typical year pre-pandemic, about 20% of American travelers reported having upcoming business, convention or group meeting trips.

     

     

    This week we can celebrate that the appeal of attending in-person meetings has improved. Over 54% of business travelers say they would be happy if their employer asked them to attend an in-person conference, convention or group meeting in the next six months. This is nearly double what was recorded last August. In addition, about 40% of American business travelers say they currently have plans to attend a conference/convention/group meeting this year. Still, a meetings industry rebound may be further into the future. Two-thirds of business travelers feel it won’t be until this summer or later that they will be comfortable attending in-person meetings. The majority (56.4%) of business travelers still would prefer a virtual meeting to an in-person one if it were happening this month. Only 20 percent say they would prefer an in-person event right now.

     

     

    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.

    A Current Pulse on Black Traveler Perspectives

     

     

    As part of Destination Analysts’ series of panel discussions with traveling consumers, our latest industry update webinar on April 6th was followed by an important discussion with Black travelers. Visit Fort Worth’s Director of Research, Lauren Phillips, led an enlightening discussion exploring how Black travelers’ unique perspectives and personal experiences impact present and future travel decisions.

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

     

     

  • Black travelers still don’t often see people who look like them in travel advertising. As we have heard time and again in traveling consumer panels, the current state of travel advertising overall appears to have the opportunity for far more inclusivity.
  • Despite being underrepresented in travel marketing, Black travelers do not hold back from taking leisure trips. A common sentiment amongst the panelists was a wish for “more representation in ads” and to “see people who look like me.” However, even given the lack of Black travelers in marketing and advertising, they are keen to hit the road and have experiences in destinations ranging from nature and the outdoors, to beaches and mountains, to large, metropolitan cities. In the words of Cyrus from Brooklyn, NY, “Black people travel, we have been traveling and we will continue to travel.”
  • Social media plays a major role in Black travelers sharing personal experiences with, and promoting destinations to, their communities and networks—and thus gaining more voice in the conversation around travel. Cognizant of the fact that Black representation is “lackluster” in the marketing campaigns for many travel brands, social media is a forum through which Black travelers can control the narrative and show that they travel to a wide variety of destinations. And this narrative leads other Black travelers to consider destinations, visit them and continue the momentum of Black travelers representing themselves, each other and the destinations they visit by posting about their experiences on social media.
  • Both presently and historically, Black travelers approach travel with caution—something we are hopeful can change. Despite the protests and greater societal solidarity shown around #BlackLivesMatter, the travelers on our panel reminded us that they have always been aware and cautious around who and where they are in all areas of life, particularly when traveling. They expressed an inherent acknowledgement that “everything is a calculated risk.” Sadly, from their perspective, the events in the last year were felt unsurprising and thus haven’t dramatically changed their approach to travel. For the travel industry, the discussion served as a key reminder that cautiousness continues to be very much a part of the Black travel experience and that we must to do our part in promoting travel as a means of inclusiveness.
  • The Destination Analysts team would like to thank Lauren Phillips of Visit Fort Worth for leading this discussion, and the panelists Cyrus, Francesca and Quincy for sharing their personal opinions and perspectives.