Update on Coronavirus’ Impact on American Travel—Week of April 13

Americans Will Approach Travel Cautiously and Differently Post Pandemic

 

 

IMPORTANT: These data and findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency.

Key Findings to Know

  • Americans are feeling somewhat better that the worst of COVID-19 in the U.S. may soon be over.
  • While nearly 70 percent continue to say they miss travel, few will jump right back in when the coronavirus situation has passed. Nine in ten American travelers say they will approach travel carefully with at least some trepidation
  • It will not be a simple return to pre-pandemic sentiments and behaviors: Now, nearly 40 percent of American travelers say they will change the types of destinations they choose to visit when they begin traveling again
  • American travelers increasingly say they will be avoiding crowds—including conferences/conventions—destinations hardest hit by coronavirus, and destinations slow to put social distancing measures in place. Also on a continual rise: the number agreeing they will take a staycation this summer and the number of younger travelers who say they will take more road trips to avoid airline travel (49.4% from 43.4% one month ago)
  • When asked the place they will visit on their first post-pandemic trip, beach/resort destinations top the list, followed by small towns/rural areas, then cities

Americans are feeling somewhat better that the worst of COVID-19 in the U.S. may soon be over. The percent feeling the coronavirus situation in the United States will get better in the next month nearly doubled to 29.5% from 15.4%. The percent who say they have had travel impacted by coronavirus remained at the same level this week (72.8%).

And yet while nearly 70 percent continue to say they miss travel, few American travelers will jump right back in when the coronavirus situation has passed. As demonstrated by the images they selected to represent how they will approach travel in the post-coronavirus period, nine in ten American travelers feel feel this will be done with care and at least some trepidation.

 

 

Furthermore, it will not be a simple return to pre-pandemic sentiments and behaviors. Now, nearly 40 percent of American travelers say they will change the types of destinations they choose to visit when they begin traveling again—this is up nearly 10 percentage points from just one week ago.

 

 

Beyond the substitution of destinations, the coronavirus pandemic looks to have a, hopefully temporary but, fundamental impact on how Americans travel and the experiences they choose. American travelers increasingly say they will be avoiding crowded places (55.7%)—including conferences/conventions (40.3%)—when they begin traveling again. They are also increasingly saying they will avoid destinations hardest hit by coronavirus (50.5%), and destinations slow to put social distancing measures in place (32.7%). Also on a continual rise: the number agreeing they will take a staycation this summer (55.2%, up from 41.3% one month ago), and the number of younger travelers who say they will take more road trips to avoid airline travel (49.4% from 43.4% one month ago)

When asked the place they will visit on their first post-pandemic trip, beach/resort destinations top the list (38.2%), followed by small towns/rural areas (30.0%) then cities (26.6%).

 

 

If you are looking to discounts and deals as a strategy to attract travelers, this is likeliest to be most effective with younger travelers. This week, 42.1% of Millennial and GenZ travelers say price cutting and discounting makes them more interested in traveling in the next three months. In comparison just 31.3% of GenX and 25.3% of Boomers agreed. Also, while July and August are currently the months with the highest percentage of travelers saying they have trip plans, later months continue to show gains, including October and December.

A presentation file summarizing these key findings is available for you to download.

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4 Things Meeting Planners Want DMOs to Know Now

During our presentation of the week of April 6th findings of our Conronavirus Travel Sentiment Index, we invited three meeting planners to join us to discuss their perspectives on the impact of COVID-19 on the meetings industry now and into the future, as well as their advice for CVBs right now. Following are key highlights from what they said.

 

 

1. Don’t stop promoting your destination. Out of sight is out of mind.

  • Pausing marketing communications would be a mistake. Planners still want to hear from DMOs right now, even if it’s just a touch base on what is currently going on in the destination.
  • In an environment with such uncertainty, planners appreciate positivity in messaging, but also acknowledge the need for a softer tone.

“It would be a bad move to not participate. You have to be in our face. You have to let us know you know what’s going on and be in control.”

“Personally, I wouldn’t pause your marketing. You might change the tone until things get back to normal. I love what some destinations are doing with putting out virtual visits so people who can’t travel can watch videos of the destination.“

 

 

2. Don’t let fear control you. Look for opportunities and be creative. These are uncertain times, but with uncertainty comes opportunity.

  • In the immediate aftermath, regional travel will flourish and create opportunities for resort destinations as well as second and third tier destinations.
  • Many small meetings are likely to move online in the future. In response, DMOs should be promoting their capabilities in providing a more holistic meeting experience. There may be opportunities to partner with good clients to assist with enhancing their virtual meeting.

“In the short term I expect a huge spike in virtual meetings because people do see that this will work. It will be an impact for us moving forward but in the long term, people will still need that face-to-face interaction, but they won’t need it for every meeting.”

“A critical role the DMO can have is providing an experience. Not just sitting around talking. It includes dinner, activities, team-building aspects, to a face to face meeting. That’s where DMOs should stress the total experience rather than just exchange of information.”

 

 

3. Start and lead a local conversation. Put on your leader hat and help bring planners and hotels together to solve two intractable problems:

  • Force majeure issues are hamstringing planners.
  • CVBs need to have a lot of conversation around allowable higher attrition or even waived attrition penalties for programs that continue to operate in 2020.

“These things are affecting our entire industry. We need to look at encouraging groups to meet and taking away some of the objections. Maybe CVBs can be starting that conversation with their hotel partners. It would encourage clients to keep their meetings in place.”

 

 

4. Hit the ground running when the situation improves. Have a strategy and a plan.

  • June is in peril. While April and May meetings are pretty much cancelled at this time, June meetings may follow very soon. There is talk that meetings may likely resume in the fall. If that is the case planners believe business will pick up quickly thereafter.

“I’m thinking third quarter we will be back to normal or the new normal. We need to conduct business so it is very important to have a strategy in place now to help us move forward.”

“CVBs need to be letting meeting planners know what they are going to do about reopening hotels. Information about when it can come back online. How quick can they be up and running again?”

“[DMOs] need to lead by example. It’s just putting on your leader hat, period, and doing what leaders do. You have to be tenacious. It’s a fight. This is not a time to be relaxed. Put your energy into it and it will work out.”

 
 

If you would like further and deeper insights about the effects of COVID-19 on the meetings industry, Destination Analysts will be releasing a Meeting Planner Sentiment Report in the coming weeks.

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Update on Coronavirus’ Impact on American Travel–Week of April 6th

American Travelers Start Looking to Fall as Near-Term Concerns Grow


IMPORTANT: These data and findings are brought to you from our independent research, which is not sponsored, conducted or influenced by any advertising or marketing agency.

 

Key Findings to Know this Week

  • Concern about personally contracting the virus has been steadily increasing among travelers in the Midwest and Northeast, with those in the Northeast feeling the most concern.
  • After a small dip last week, concern about the virus’ impact on travelers’ personal finances is back up (7.0 on a 10-point scale).
  • More travel was affected in the last week: now 72.8% say they have had travel affected by the coronavirus situation. 65.3% cancelled a trip; the highest rate in the last four weeks. There is an uptick in cancellations reported in May and June.
  • The percent who feel the coronavirus situation will get worse in the U.S. next month has grown to 70.3% (from 66.5% a week ago). Those confident that coronavirus will be resolved by the summer travel season plummeted to 31.0%.
  • Nevertheless, 53.1% of American travelers say they expect they will be traveling in the Fall. The percent who say they have trip plans in September and later in 2020 have ticked up.
  • Even more travelers say they miss traveling this week–69.1% can’t wait to travel again, up from 63.0%.
  • After the pandemic, half of American travelers say they will avoid crowded destinations (49.8%).

 

As the United States has become an epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic, concern among American travelers about personally contracting the virus is high, with steady week-over-week increases in the Midwest and Northeast (where concern is the highest in the country) regions. Interestingly, Gen X has been given accolades as the generation who acted swiftly in taking coronavirus seriously and implored others to; indeed, Gen X travelers continue to express the most concern about their friends and family contracting the virus.

 

After a small dip last week, concerns about the virus’ impact on personal finances is back up—7.0 on a 10-point scale; the week prior it was 6.8. Travelers in the Western U.S. demonstrate the most concern about what coronavirus may do to their personal financial situation.

 

This week, Florida has jumped to the third most named place travelers associate with coronavirus issues, after New York—which is far and away the destination most commonly associated with coronavirus—and California—which has seen declines this week as a place associated with coronavirus issues.

 

Over the last week, even more travel was affected by the COVID-19 outbreak—now 72.8% of travelers say they have had trips affected by the coronavirus situation, up from 66.1%.

 

 

Nearly two-thirds (65.3%) report having cancelled a trip; the highest rate in the last four weeks (Note: Gen X travelers were the likeliest to report trip cancellations due to coronavirus this week). An uptick in cancellations was reported for the months of May and June, suggesting that travelers are less confident about being able to travel until July or later. Americans are likeliest to report that it is their vacation-type trips being impacted (40.3%), but even trips to visit friends and relatives have steadily risen in cancellations or postponements (26.0%).

 

 

The percent of American travelers who feel the coronavirus situation will get worse in the U.S. next month has grown to 70.3% (up from 66.5% a week ago). Those confident that coronavirus will be resolved by the summer travel season plummeted to 31.0% (Back on March 15th, 52.5% of American travelers felt the situation would be resolved by summer). Millennial travelers remain the most optimistic.

 

Nevertheless, 53.1% of American travelers say they expect they will be traveling in the Fall. The percent who say they have trip plans in September and later in 2020 have ticked up, as well.

 


 

As shelter in place and social distancing measures continue on, even more travelers are saying they miss traveling. This week, 69.1% said they “can’t wait to get out and travel again” up from 63.0% last week. However, half of American travelers feel that they will avoid crowded destinations in the six-month period after the pandemic ends.

 

In addition, more travelers are showing their support for their own communities. This week, 60.6% of American travelers said they have undertaken specific efforts to support local businesses where they live.

 

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.
To make sure you receive notifications of our latest findings, you can sign up here.
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Update on Coronavirus’ Impact on American Travel–Week of March 30th

Update on Coronavirus’ Impact on American Travel–Week of March 30th



Key Findings to Know this Week

  • 66.1% of American travelers report trips affected by COVID-19, essentially flat from last week. While the near-term (March/April) shows the heaviest losses, the percent reporting cancelled and postponed trips in later months is increasing
  • While Americans predominately attach fear to traveling at the moment, they miss it: two-thirds agree they “can’t wait to get out and travel again” #whencoronavirusisover
  • However, nearly one-third of American travelers say they will change the types of destinations they choose to visit after the coronavirus situation is resolved; another 26.0% are unsure if they will
  • In the interim, 55.4% of American travelers have been taking action to support local businesses where they live



As of March 29th, 66.1% of American travelers report having trips affected by COVID-19, essentially flat from last week—and far less dramatic than the 20 percentage point gain between March 15th and 22nd.





While the near-term continues to show the heaviest losses from trip cancellations and postponements, the percent reporting cancelled and postponed trips in later months is increasing as the pandemic wears on.

In considering the ultimate impact of COVID-19 on travel it is critical to note that no data source right now captures the travel volume that never emerged because of the pandemic—the millions of trips that are typically inspired and planned in shorter windows…the lost months of travel.

The good news is that Americans MISS travel. Although when asked the first word they associate with travel right now, expressions of fear dominate (illustrating the excellent sense many Destination Marketing Organizations are demonstrating in their production of beautiful “#stayhomesavelives, we will be waiting to welcome you when it’s safe” content). Nevertheless, two-thirds agree or strongly agree that they “miss travel…I can’t wait to get out and travel again.”

After 9/11, fear was also strongly associated with travel. However, unlike the post 9/11 period, even deep discounts are not motivating Americans to commit to new trips—in fact, 40% disagree that such discounts make them more interested in travel in the next few months. So despite missing going on trips, American travelers appear to be listening to healthcare experts that the virus has the strongest say in their travel fate.

Another sentiment that will be critical to how the travel industry recovers is how Americans feel about the travel they used to do—and if they return to the same set of desires and trip experiences or alter them. As of this week, nearly one-third of American travelers now say they will change the types of destinations they choose to visit after the coronavirus situation is resolved. Another 26.0% are unsure if they will.



While they keep their wanderlust on simmer, American travelers are expressing their appreciation for the people upon whom great culture and experiences are often built. In total, 55.4% of American travelers report taking action to support local businesses where they live.



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.

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Update on Coronavirus’ Impact on American Travel–Week of March 22nd

 

 

As COVID-19 spreads, so does its devastation on how Americans feel about travel. In the latest wave of Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment tracking study (collected March 20-22), nearly two-thirds (64.3%) of the 1,200+ American leisure and business travelers surveyed said their travel had been upended by the virus. This is up 20 percentage points from just one week prior and nearly six times what it was on February 22nd.


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Unfortunately, this impact appears to have resulted in more cancelled—rather than postponed—trips. As shown in the graphic below, 63.0% of American travelers who had travel affected by coronavirus have cancelled a trip (up from 55.1% on week prior), while the percent reporting they have postponed a trip has declined from 51.0% to 46.7%. Other reported impacts on travel—such as changing destinations–have not yet been significant.
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One of the most challenging findings from this week’s survey is that the percent of American travelers optimistic the coronavirus situation will be resolved by the summer travel season has declined to 37.5%, down from 52.5% last week. 
What was seemingly a glimmer of hope just a week ago has been diminished.

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One of the key factors in this week’s results are Baby Boomer travelers who, within a few days time, have gone from the generation reporting the least impact to their travel to the generation most impacted.  A week ago, 38.2% of Boomer travelers reported their travel had been affected by the coronavirus situation, a figure that has dramatically risen to 73.1%. And while 51.0% of Boomer travelers agreed last week that the coronavirus situation would be resolved by the summer travel season; now just 28.2% feel that way. 

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We look forward to the time when such results are less sobering. Fellow travel and hospitality professionals, please know our hearts join yours in hope for the speediest recovery of our beloved industry.

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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 about purchasing here.

Coronavirus’ Impact on American Travel

 

NOTE: An enormous “THANK YOU” to our friends at the Virginia Tourism Corporation for allowing us to share this data from an ongoing American Travel Sentiment study Destination Analysts conducts on the organization’s behalf.

Between February 19th and 21st, Destination Analysts fielded a survey to a random sample of American travelers which, among other topics related to their travel, inquired about the impact of the coronavirus on their current and future travel plans. During this (now relatively blissful) period, the virus had not yet had such an extensive global reach. There were only a few cases of coronavirus in the United States and no related deaths. With a few exceptions, most international and domestic flight service was near normal levels. Italy was amongst the top foreign countries Americans wished to visit.

Although there has been a rapid change in circumstances (as pandemics tend to do), looking at American travelers’ response to coronavirus at that time gives us some view into the scale of its ultimate impact.

During those few days in late February, 11.4 percent of American travelers said that the coronavirus had affected their travel in some way. Another 8.2 percent felt unsure. Being younger and having children appeared to be key factors in whether one was impacted: 20.1 percent of Gen Z travelers said their travel was affected, compared to just 8.0 percent of Boomers. Those with children under the age of 18 in their household were more than twice as likely to say their travel was affected compared to those without kids (18.4% vs. 7.9%)

 

For those who said their travel was in some way impacted by coronavirus, we asked a follow up question as to how. As shown in the accompanying chart, most commonly a trip that was planned for the subsequent few months had been cancelled, and concerns about traveling had increased. Also note that at the time, one-in-five of these travelers who were affected said a trip that had been planned in the previous month had already been cancelled.

 

 

Interestingly, how an American traveler was impacted varied greatly by age. Millennial and Gen Z travelers were much likelier to say a trip in the coming months had been cancelled compared to Baby Boomer travelers ( 42.4% vs. 15.5%). Older travelers were likelier to express increased concern about traveling (55.6% of impacted Boomers compared to 12.1% of impacted GenZ and Millennial travelers). Well over half of Baby Boomer travelers who felt that their travel had been impacted by coronavirus said they were avoiding certain destinations; comparatively, less than 10 percent of impacted younger travelers felt that way. Millennial travelers also appear largely unwilling to give up travel—just 6.8 percent of those travelers whose plans were affected by coronavirus said they “will not take as many trips as I normally would have.”

The study of the changing extent and impact of the coronavirus on travel and the travel industry is, of course, ongoing. To our clients and industry partners, please be assured we will update you as much and as often as we can.

Travel Demand Post Coronavirus

One of the theories the travel industry is hopeful about is that amidst the current reality of flight cancellations, travel advisories and quarantines, a deep well of wanderlust will be building amongst travelers—and like prisoners in a jailbreak, will rush to express itself once opportune to.

This would be an ideal outcome, given the thousands of tragic deaths and devastation the virus has caused the global economy. Adding salt to this deep wound, prior to the coronavirus unleashing its havoc, the travel industry looked poised to have a good year. Domestically, in our January The State of the American Traveler study, Americans reported a greater number of leisure trips, and their optimism for increased leisure travel in 2020 had inched up from 12-months prior. Findings from our 2020 The State of the Global International Traveler study showed similar enthusiasm amongst travelers across much of the world–and, sadly, demand for Japan and Italy—countries now facing major travel restrictions—were amongst the highest globally.

What might we expect after the pandemic hopefully ceases? Let’s look more deeply at China as a case study on what we might hope for.

Destination Analysts fielded its annual The State of the Global International Traveler survey to a random sample of Chinese international travelers between January 19th and 27th. During these nine days, the first dozen deaths from coronavirus were recorded, Wuhan and 12 other cities were placed on lock down, Lunar New Year celebrations were cancelled and travel restrictions were imposed. The full extent—and consequent impact—of the virus on the Chinese and world’s health systems, travel systems and economies was still yet unknown.

However, at that time, Chinese international travelers expressed increased optimism for their international travel in 2020 (65.5% said they would take more international trips this year than they did the year prior, and 62.5% said they would spend more on their international travel this year than previously), returning to levels in 2016 and 2017—when Chinese arrivals to the United States were in a period of strong growth. One-in-five Chinese international travelers said that their global travels would be an “extremely high priority” in terms of what they choose to spend their financial resources on this year. Another 28.2% said it would be a “high priority.” This sentiment, along with their anticipation to travel and spend more internationally (in fact, the average Chinese international traveler said they would be spending US $3,542 on international travel this year), puts them as among the most aspirational international travelers in the world.

When Chinese international travelers feel a semblance of normalcy again, the United States looks to be a beneficiary. When asked to name—in an unaided format—the top three foreign countries they most wanted to visit in the next year, the United States was written in by 41.1 percent of Chinese international travelers—it was second only to Japan (50.5%) and nearly double the third most written in destination, France (22.3%).

So as we send gratitude and support to healthcare communities across the globe, and wish for healing and recovery soon, as we look to the future, we as the travel industry may have some reasons to feel hopeful.

For more and deeper insights into global travel trends, order the 2020 The State of the International Traveler report by emailing info@destinationanalysts.com.

Getting the Love You Want From Meeting Planners

What do meeting planners love about CVBs? What services do meeting planners wish to see more of from CVBs in order to make their destination top-of-mind? And, with a constantly changing industry, what are the predominant trends?

Destinations International invited us to speak at their 2019 Annual Convention on the future of the meetings industry. CEO Erin Cummings and Director of Research Myha Gallagher, along with a live online panel of meeting planners, discussed trends impacting the meetings industry, the most valuable assets of CVBs according to meeting planners, and what meeting planners hope to see more of from CVBs in the future. The 500 meeting planners who completed the survey represent a variety of meeting types—corporate, association, smerf, third party—meeting sizes, and industries.

Trends in the Meetings Industry

Trends in travel shift every year as motivational factors for selecting destinations change. It is vital that CVBs understand these trends in order to market accordingly. “We asked meeting planners in an open-ended format to expound on the trends they feel will have the biggest impact in the future,” Gallagher explained. Here’s what we found out.

“Technology – you’d better keep up or you will be obsolete.”

Time and time again, technology was mentioned among surveyed meeting planners as an omnipresent force in the industry.

“I think that social media culture will continue to mean driving meeting attendance by promising a unique and different event experience with memorable photo ops.”

Another sentiment commonly shared among respondents was that the growing popularity of mobile apps and/or social media allows for virtual sharing of meetings content. There was also
the notion that social media culture demands for a type of “social proof” to document the event experience.

“Live streaming & on-demand will become much more prevalent due to decreasing costs & more competition & improving technologies”

In a similar regard, technology not only provides access to social media sharing but allows for sharing through a live stream meeting, extending the reach.

“More attendees reserving short-term housing rentals (Airbnb) vs. hotel rooms.”

Cummings pointed out that planners noticed an increase in AirBnB access and preferences for lodging outside hotels among attendees. There was ambiguity about whether this will help or hurt meeting attendees.

What Meeting Planners Love About CVBs

We asked the surveyed meeting planners what are CVB best practices. They responded that they love when CVBs provide personalized hotel selection assistance, incentive packages, and RFP distribution.

Gallagher acknowledged that “I have long heard grumbling that hotel salespeople often don’t bring in the CVB.” We addressed this in our study: there is a growing agreement among meeting planners that if national hotel sales offices worked closely with the local CVBs, meeting planners would benefit (81.5 percent of respondents “Agreed” or “Strongly Agreed” with this notion, which is up from 77.1 percent the previous year). We hope to bring the hotel community into the discussion next year.

Keys for Marketing to Meeting Planners

“Given that meeting planners are such important customers to CVBs,” Cummings noted, “it is important that CVBs know how to attract more engagement from them.” We asked the meeting
planners which CVB behaviors would have the greatest impact on them using their services more.

“Based on our findings,” Cummings recapped, “the greatest impact a CVB can have on a meeting planner is to guarantee a sit-down meeting to truly understand their event and act as a partner, rather than a salesperson.”

 

The meetings industry is an integral part of tourism profit. Ensuring that CVBs have an up-to-date, accurate understanding of the attitudes and needs of their most significant customers is paramount to their success.

 

By Eva Tirion

An Emerging Threat in Travel Decisions

Climate change is on the minds of many American leisure travelers. In fact, fully half (50%) say that they expect it to impact their travels in one way or another at some point in the next five years.

Climate change has emerged as an impactor of travel decisions among half of American travelers. A recent edition of our The State of the American Traveler survey asked travelers if they expect that climate change will impact their travel plans at some point in the next five years. We found out that its on the minds of many, and not only because of volatile temperature changes. Travelers are thinking about long-term consequences too.

15.2% of Americans report that climate change will change how they travel. One in every five Americans believe climate change will alter the destinations they chose to visit (20.9%). The largest percent of respondents (28.5%) believe it will change the timing of their trips.

“If sea levels rise, I’d assume some shore destinations and islands would be affected. Already I was unable to go to a destination of choice as it was decimated by a very strong hurricane a couple of years ago.”

Many American travelers responded that natural disasters would completely deter them from planning a trip to that destination. Not only would a natural disaster force them to cancel their plans, but if the area has prior history of hurricanes, typhoons, or earthquakes, it makes the traveler significantly less inclined to plan a trip. Travelers are already experiencing the effects of natural disasters on their travel decisions: one traveler reported that the recent mudslides and wildfires in California makes them significantly less inclined to plan a trip, even though they have frequented the state in past years.

Destruction of coastal destinations is also a major concern among travelers. Fear of sea level rise make travelers feel a sense of urgency to plan a trip before cities are submerged. Others expressed sadness that once thriving national and state parks, their preferred destination, are being destroyed. One traveler expressed anger that their once beloved snowy destinations are “being robbed of their beauty.”

“I need to make sure my family and I are safe when we travel.”

Some travelers had specific examples of how climate change is pervading their personal lives and travel decisions. A common sentiment among travelers is an awareness that they are already changing the time of year they plan to travel based on weather patterns. One respondent explained that their family lives in a place they feel will be severely affected by glacier melting, and therefore they might have to stop traveling there soon. Another respondent reported that although they used to travel to Los Angeles frequently, the air quality has gotten so poor they can no longer. A third wrote that as temperatures increase in their home in Texas, they will soon be searching for cooler destinations and traveling more frequently during peak summer months. Plenty of people responded that the safety of themselves and their family while travelling is an increasing concern as global warming becomes more threatening.

“Climate change will make me more aware of my impact on my surroundings while traveling and try to minimize my effect on these destinations by showing respect for the environment to preserve it for future generations.”

Climate change isn’t just affecting where Americans travel, but how they travel. Many respondents acknowledge that the cost to travel will increase as certain destinations are more highly demanded. There is desire among respondents to be more thoughtful about their own environmental footprint by, for example, changing their mode of transportation to a train or boat. Others reported that they would be more attracted to sustainable regions in the coming years.

American travelers evidently think that climate change is a substantial factor to consider when planning a trip. In five years, will climate change be the number one influencer of travel decisions?

 

By Eva Tirion

The Future of Travel-Planning Apps

Travel-planning apps promise endless information to help us execute the perfect trip. Yet, our research shows us that these apps haven’t yet reached their fullest potential. How can destinations make the most out of their apps? The answer might be as simple as developing trust and personalization.

Every year brings new, cutting-edge technological advancements. As many of us know by now, smartphones are reliable and capable tools to assist with day-to-day tasks and provide a plethora of knowledge. It feels like technology is always one step ahead of us, keeping us connected and organized.

But according to our recent The State of the American Traveler survey, technology isn’t always the preferred source of knowledge used when it concerns travel planning. The report, published every quarter, asks a representative sample of 2,000 American leisure travelers about their travel plans for the upcoming year. The Spring 2019 findings show a notable decrease in American traveler’s use of apps to plan their trips compared to Spring 2018.

The most drastic difference compared to Spring 2018 is the decrease in use of company-specific hotel apps. There was a 13 percent drop in usage among travelers between Spring 2018 and 2019. Additionally, while a solid 60.0 percent of American leisure travelers used an online travel agency last year, this year the corresponding figure has sharply dropped to 52.0 percent. Similarly, only 44.0 percent of travelers report using online recommendations such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, or Trippy compared to 47.1 percent one year earlier. Airline and last-minute travel detail hotel apps both decreased somewhat as well.

 

Three apps did, however, appear to be on the rise. Weather apps increased in Spring 2019 from 25.5 percent in 2018 to 29.7 percent. Travel logistics and management apps increased from 8.4 percent in 2018 to 12.3 percent. Lastly, language translation apps increased to 7.6 percent, which is up from 5.5 percent one year ago.

So, why is this? Naturally, travelers want to feel a certain level of trust familiarity when receiving recommendations to plan their trips. As seen in the graph below, face-to-face interactions with relatives and friends score high in frequent use and assert the highest level of trust. But when travelers observe friends and family over social media to glean travel advice, both use and trustworthiness decrease.

 

Word of mouth is clearly the dominant travel-planning source, because leisure travelers value face-to-face interactions when receiving travel advice and use it to plan their trips more frequently. It makes sense: why would you take advice from a stranger through a screen when you could take that of a family member’s, who is more likely to know your idea of a perfect vacation?

Travel apps have the potential to provide greater variety and quantity of information compared to the knowledge and experience of a fellow traveler, there is no doubt about that. Recommendation Apps such as TripAdvisor and Yelp offer a plethora of honest opinions from real-life travelers. Travelers clearly appreciate the quantity of information travel apps provide, but maybe these applications haven’t yet reached their potential to include what travelers would consider a “quality” recommendation.

So, how can travel marketers generate the same level of trust as word of mouth? Providing user-generated content on the app or website, such as photos and videos of the traveler’s experience, could increase trust beyond a recommendation they write. Another idea is having filter options that allow the user to “customize” their ideal vacation experience and then receive recommendations based on their results. If destination marketing organizations and travel brands could incorporate the relatability and personalization of word of mouth, while maintaining the quick, accessible plethora of information that is appealing about travel-planning apps, it could have a significant impact on the future of travel planning.