Travel and hospitality are two of the industries that have been hit hardest by the coronavirus. With continued uncertainty surrounding the pandemic and constantly changing data varying state by state and county by county, Americans are asking themselves when is it safe to travel? Do I book a vacation now or wait? Should I rent an RV or go on a short trip in the car? Or, is a stay-cation best for my family?
There appears to be no definitive answers for families looking to get away.
Research shows—as summer is currently in full swing—that more people are starting to warm up to the idea of traveling. But persistent fears of infection, uncertainty over their personal finances and governmental measures are still keeping many at (or close to) home. Safety is consumers’ No. 1 priority for travel. Not surprisingly, staying closer to home is making sense for more families.
As chief marketing officer of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Lisa Checchio recently stated during an Ad Age Podcast, “we are seeing demand for beachfront, national parks and road trips, and we’re seeing a different type of traveler now. Where before we may be looking at that one big, bucket-list trip, or going somewhere you’ve never been before, we’re now seeing travel close to home. We’re also seeing it as a means to reconnect with family and friends that people have not been able to see over the last several months.”
As this July 8th U.S Travel Sentiment Survey from Longwoods International shows, visiting friends and relatives by car remains the most popular first trip travelers plan on making in the next six weeks. Some travelers are even venturing out on traditional summer vacations but are staying close to home (within 200 miles). In fact, there was also a slight uptick in Americans planning plane travel.
Longwoods International Covid-19 U.S. Travel Sentiment Survey
There is also some good news on how safe travelers feel. In a July MMGY Travel Intentions Pulse study, domestic U.S. travelers reported a slight increase in their overall perception of safety (up from 44 in June to 46 in July) even as the number of reported COVID-19 cases began to surge again in several markets across the United States. This may be an indication that travelers have begun to slowly adapt to a new normal.
When asked during a recent press call whether traveling right now is a good idea given the state of spread in this country, U.S. Travel Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Policy Tori Barnes said, “like other parts of the economy, travel can resume if folks take very seriously health and safety measures such as wearing a mask, using hand sanitizer and physical distancing.”
On a positive note for the industry as a whole, current research shows that consumer sentiment toward traveling should continue to improve throughout the year, barring a potential second wave of the virus in the fall which could make people more cautious again. But many Americans are ready to travel; in that same MMGY Travel Intentions Pulse study mentioned above, 66 percent of travelers expect to book their next leisure trip within the next six months, and more than half plan to do so in the next three months.
At the time of this writing, there is no defined projection for when the pandemic will likely end. Historically, scientific experts consider two distinct endings to a pandemic: 1) a medical ending, which occurs when the infection and death rates drop to a certain level, and 2) a social ending, which is when widespread fear of the disease subsides. For the travel industry, the end will most likely be a social ending.
If the industry can make U.S. travelers feel safe again, they will travel. Of course, this is dependent on the location of travel, the mode of transport and type of accommodations. Car travel is likely to recover before both short and long-haul air travel, and the hotel sector will likely fare better than alternative accommodations like home rental services.
After being cooped up for months, the demand from families looking to get away is creeping up and has the potential to be off the charts. The uneasiness surrounding the pandemic will settle down and this will likely happen on a state by state basis.
The travel industry will need to be prepared on both regional and national levels. As a marketer in the travel industry, it is critical to stay on top of, and monitor, this ever-changing landscape of information. Burrelles has a wide variety of options within its portfolio to help travel professionals do just that. Feel free to contact us for more information or to answer any questions!