As Americans gradually open back up to travel, they are making plans for their trips—the likes of which include beaches, parks, social distancing and hand sanitizer.
Every week since March 15th, Destination Analysts has surveyed 1,200+ American travelers about their thoughts, feelings, perceptions and behaviors surrounding travel in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The findings presented below represent data collected May 15th-17th.
Key Findings to Know:
Of course, feelings about the virus and travel are not uniform. About a quarter of American travelers remain committed to avoiding travel until the coronavirus situation has definitively passed—These travelers’ concerns about themselves and others contracting the virus are much greater, and they are more likely to be female and to have graduate degrees. Meanwhile, travelers in the Midwest and South have the relatively least concerns about the virus, are most optimistic that the coronavirus situation will stay the same or improve in the next month and demonstrate the most agreement that they will be traveling in the Fall.
In contrast, travelers in the Northeast are much more likely to say they are going to take a staycation this summer (62.6% compared to average of 54.1%) and avoid international travel (80.0%) in response to COVID-19. Millennial and GenZ travelers express a greater sense of safety. Their levels of excitement to travel within the next month and interest in learning about travel destinations are notably higher than Baby Boomers. Millennials and GenZ travelers can be particularly motivated to travel by price-cuts and discounts (45.6%).
American travelers are opening back up to attending conferences and conventions. While the perceived safety of conferences and conventions remains depressed, it has improved since the lows recorded in the first half of April. The percent of conference/convention travelers saying they are avoiding these events until the coronavirus situation is resolved is at a 9-week low (67.5%), with travelers in the West demonstrating greater optimism about attending such events. Right now, 64.5% of conference/convention travelers trust the hosting organizations to look out for their health, while 60.7% say they trust their fellow attendees will conduct themselves appropriately to protect against the spread of viruses.
Americans are starting to plan travel. Of the 64.1% of American travelers who have one or more trips at least tentatively planned this year, seven in ten have taken some action towards their very next trip, including researching things to see and do (23.3%) and making hotel/lodging reservations (22.4%).
Over half of these travelers describe their next trip as a vacation or weekend getaway (54.4%), 27.7% say their next trip will be for the explicit purpose of visit friends and relatives, and 13.4% will travel to attend a festival, sports or other event. Of those who will take a vacation or getaway, over half are still not fully decided on where they will go and could be potentially influenced through marketing. Beaches, parks and other natural environments appear particularly attractive to this group right now.
No matter the type of trip, three-quarters of Americans who plan to travel this year will research how the destination they visit and its businesses are managing the coronavirus situation—demonstrating the need for destination-level information on safety. A majority of these travelers plan to carry hand sanitizer, follow social distancing guidelines, avoid crowds, and wear a face mask on their trips. Right now, only 44.5% of these travelers are confident that travel businesses can open safely although a larger 59.4% trust travel-related businesses to look out for patrons’ health while traveling.
When it comes to visitors in their own communities, the percent of American travelers who say they don’t want them remains high (60.2%), but is at a 4-week low. Rural residents are the least comfortable with tourists presently (66.3%), followed by urban (64.0%) and suburban (56.9%) residents. With travelers showing a desire for the type of tourism assets most commonly associated with a rural experience, some tensions may arise.
Nevertheless, travel is still recognized for its positive emotional benefits. For those American travelers under shelter-in-place orders, 59.1% feel that traveling together when the Coronavirus situation is over would be good for their family.
A presentation file summarizing these key findings is available for you to download.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.