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:
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.