Research continues to show that people are ready to travel again and, if the industry addresses travelers’ concerns, the recovery could be hastened.
The latest survey from the World Travel & Tourism Council has revealed that 99 percent of U.S. and Canadian travelers are “eager to travel again.”
Even more encouraging for the travel industry is that 70 percent of respondents stated that they plan to take a holiday in 2021, according to a Travel Leaders Group survey conducted in conjunction with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
Many have already entered the planning phase. Forty-five percent of respondents have already made plans or are starting to make finite plans for their next vacation, and 54 percent said that they are dreaming of when they can travel again.
“These are really strong numbers. The fact that 99 percent of travelers surveyed said they are planning a trip or looking forward to the time they can travel again indicates that as concerns about COVID-19 are addressed, leisure travelers will lead the recovery,” said John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group.
The survey found that nearly a quarter of respondents were planning to travel by the end of this year. Seventy percent said that they were planning to travel in 2021, and just 18 percent said that they would wait until 2022.
“Consumer uncertainty about the risk of exposure or concerns about being quarantined is a core problem,” said Gloria Guevara, WTTC president and CEO. “With rapid testing to replace quarantine requirements, enhanced contact tracing and industry-wide standards by sector that can be clearly communicated to the public, we can help alleviate many of those concerns.”
Americans’ eagerness to travel is showing up in other statistics as well. The Transportation Security Administration’s daily screening numbers fell below 90,000 per day in April but are now approaching 1 million per day at peak periods. In 2019, TSA daily traveler counts averaged between 2.3 and 2.7 million passengers a day.
Travelers are still concerned about contracting COVID-19. More than half of respondents said they are concerned about the risk of being infected when traveling on a plane or cruise ship. Travelers also fear getting stuck while away from home or being quarantined on a cruise ship or at a hotel.
Other concerns about traveling during the pandemic are about contracting the virus, getting a refund for a trip and family members who have health risks.
Health and safety measures such as mandatory masks, social distancing, enhanced cleaning, temperature checks and access to sanitizing gel make a big difference in the decision-making process of travelers, a majority of whom feel these measures are important.
“Our industry needs to do more to inform potential travelers about all of the health and safety protocols that have been implemented across the industry and continue to standardize those protocols to restore consumer confidence in travel,” said Lovell. “Airlines, airports and cruise lines have made major strides in the health and hygiene measures they have taken in close consultation with the world’s leading medical experts. We need to share that story with the traveling public.”
A large majority of travelers were also willing to get tested for COVID-19 to travel. Nearly 60 percent of respondents said the requirement of a negative PCR test prior to arrival in a destination would make no difference or would be viewed as a positive. Forty percent said such a requirement would be a deterrent.
“We believe the widespread availability of rapid testing will result in greater acceptance of pre-trip testing and encourage more people to travel,” he stated.
Travelers planning a vacation are most likely to fly with 47 percent saying they will take a plane. Twenty-one percent will drive, and 17 percent said that they plan to take an ocean cruise. Five percent said they are planning to take a river cruise.
“We continue to see strong interest in domestic travel, beach destinations and less crowded destinations in both the US and Canada, while the popularity of Europe across the board is encouraging,” said Stephen McGillivray, chief marketing officer for Travel Leaders Group.
Top-ranked international destinations include Europe (38 percent), the Caribbean (34 percent) and Mexico (15 percent) followed by Canada (for US travelers), Central and South America, Australia, Africa and Asia.
Travelers are still looking for places with fewer crowds. For US travelers, uncrowded, outdoor and beach experiences topped the list. National Parks, Florida, Hawaii, Alaska, California and “anywhere uncrowded” are some of the most popular places.
Travelers are turning to the internet to find information and to book. Those who are online shopping for travel experiences right now are looking to travel by the end of 2020 or early 2021.
RVs and villa rentals continue to be in high demand, and many travelers are celebrating milestones such as birthdays, anniversaries and honeymoons.
Popular inquiries from those shopping for travel include:
—“Where can I go without self-quarantine?”
—“I need to get out of here, where can I go?”
—“I’ve never used a travel agent before…”
—“I am an avid cruiser always booked direct but need a travel agent to help me book them now.”
“Booking with a travel advisor is the best possible strategy to navigate the new world of travel,” McGillivray said. “They can provide all the facts you need to know about destinations, requirements, how to protect your purchase, and best of all, they provide peace of mind.”