For more than four months tour operators representing all elements of the leisure/group travel sector—international tour operators, domestic tour operators, student and senior tour operators, as well as those who specialize in customized product—who have taken part in the Connect Travel “Staying Connected” series of virtual roundtables have acknowledged that 2020 is, essentially, a lost year for the travel and tourism industry.
So, as buyers and sellers of the U.S. product are already working on the 2021 travel season (and, in some cases, beyond that), the question is begged: How will changes that address the health and safety concerns, and which have been brought about by the coronavirus global pandemic, configure themselves into U.S. travel products? And will such actions be a permanent or temporary part of the way in which the industry markets, sells and services these products.
Here to Stay—Same-State Stays, Road Trips and Greater Flexibility: Although global surveys of traveler intentions and responses associated with pandemic-related changes and attitudes, there have been a sprinkling of consumer surveys that provide the greater travel industry some key insights as to what travelers are doing, and what they want.
“Summer travel inarguably looks different this summer,” reported Expedia® in its recently released 2020 Summer Travel Report. The report, which sheds light on the emerging priorities and behaviors of Americans looking to vacationing, includes the following highlights from the survey.
—85 percent of survey respondents said that they were planning or likely to go on a road trip this summer, driven primarily by the need for a change of scenery (43 percent) and the desire to enjoy the outdoors (36 percent).
—As travelers venture away from home and destinations open back up to tourism, health and safety takes priority over price when trip-planning. More than seven out of ten (72 percent of) survey respondents said they’re opting for a road trip this summer because it feels safer than flying
—Seventy-two percent of people listed health and safety and avoiding crowds (68 percent) as top concerns over budget (60 percent).
—With so much uncertainty impacting vacation plans this year, many travelers were opting for plans that could be easily adjusted, canceled or rescheduled. Expedia data showed that 97 percent of hotel stays booked in June were refundable rates, a 20 percent increase from the year prior.
—Traveling within the U.S. is always a popular option for Americans, but international travel restrictions coupled with health and safety uncertainty has led to a 10 percent increase in domestic summer travel searches, according to Expedia.com data.
—Nearly 85 percent of hotel searches on the site in June were for accommodations located within the U.S. Furthermore, about a quarter of June bookings were for same-state stays, a slight increase from last year.
—Last-minute getaways were also on the rise, with more travelers booking trips 0-7 days out this summer than in previous years.
“While the desire to get away is still going strong for many of us, how and where we’re choosing to go this summer looks different,” said Nisreene Atassi, director public relations and social for Expedia.com. “Beaches and national parks remain popular, but more Americans are choosing destinations that are closer to home and drivable, versus going somewhere more exotic. Interestingly, we’ve seen that travelers are making these plans at the last minute. Things are so unpredictable right now with COVID-19, so it’s possible that travelers feel more comfortable making travel plans for the near future vs. planning too far ahead.”
Note: The Expedia survey leveraged search and demand data and a national poll of 1,000+ Americans.