The sustained impact and subsequent worries that Americans have felt during the months of COVID-19 have been unimaginable. With the inability to travel freely, both domestically and internationally, there is a pent-up demand to hit the road, which is predicted to bubble to the surface soon. As such, the tourism and hospitality industry is making all of the necessary moves to prepare for the return of travel in 2021.
Marketers and data analysts have been closely following consumer behaviors and predicting trends to stay ahead of the hopeful demand in the new year. Understanding sentiment during a major shift is key – listening to American travelers and understanding their current mindset toward travel. For example, in the last few weeks, there was a recorded split between readiness and hesitation, but with the vaccination progress in the last few weeks, Americans are becoming more optimistic about the future of travel. In fact, Destination Analysis reports that as of this month, “46% of polled Americans have moved into the planning and booking stage for 2021 travel”, plus American travelers are now saying they are hoping to take an average of three leisure trips next year, with the May-August period the most common for travel.
This year, DMO’s and hospitality brands have faced a multitude of challenges in a rapidly changing world, and we’ve seen them be quite nimble to adjust to the times. Destinations have become advocates for funding and safety, promoted their brand purpose at a higher level, and adjusted marketing messaging to include safety protocols, to name a few. They’re working hard to stay top of mind and relevant, as data shows that even though Americans have not traveled this year, that does not mean they’ve lost their desire to travel. In fact, they still want to hear about new destinations and vacation opportunities as inspiration for when they’re ready to book.
As longtime tourism marketers, we’re building 2021 marketing plans that align with the current state of travel and traveler sentiment, and are following the data to ensure our clients are in tune with the shifts that happen weekly. Here are a few notes from our team’s research:
This is a new word for us that you’ll likely hear often in 2021. Coined by MMGY, it refers to the anticipated rise of travel this summer for the general public as soon as they receive their vaccination, alongside the lift of border restrictions. Proof of vaccinations may be required for boarding flights, international travel and certain business or special events, but the details are still in discussion.
Staying Local/Road Trips
This year, Americans have taken advantage of exploring their own backyard, as driving a few hours away provided many with the sought-after relief from restlessness and cabin fever. Hotels have also experienced a lift in bookings from guests staying closer to home, leading them to rethink their market segment and their guests’ motivation for booking, and to focus on more local/regional audiences.
Additionally, 2020 welcomed the return of the great American road trip and spending time in nature. For generations, road trips have been symbolic of the annual family vacation and now, their popularity is once again on the upswing. Pinterest searches for “road trip routes” surged almost 250%, faster than the 89% jump for “cross country road trip,” 60% lift for “national parks” and 41% gain for “lake weekend.” Whether it’s taking in the sights along iconic Route 66, marveling in a visit to Yellowstone or exploring the byways of Louisiana, road trips make it easy for families to getaway while maintaining control over their ability to social distance and follow other safety guidelines.
This year has proved that many jobs can be done from anywhere, as long as there’s access to a laptop and reliable Wi-Fi. Travelers are leaning into the nomadic work/life balance, looking into destinations they can visit for much longer stays. Think of it as a working holiday, or an inspirational change of scenery to motivate your work. Some destinations like Barbados have even implemented new visa protocols allowing travelers to remain in their destination for even longer.
As of this week’s survey from Destination Analysts, a majority of Americans feel traveling on a commercial airline is still unsafe (57.5%). On the other hand, flight search site Skyscanner reported that U.S. bookings for economy round-trip flights jumped up 9 percent on the heels of the first positive vaccine news. And some airline CEOs have already hinted that they will soon require their passengers to be inoculated before flying, bringing even more safety measures to the sky.
In 2019, domestic travelers spent $972 billion in the United States—representing 86 percent of total travel spending. Clearly, as a country, we like to travel, and while it will take a few years to rebound to numbers closer to last year’s, the industry as a whole remains positive. If you’re looking to launch a travel-centric marketing campaign that speaks to the current climate of the market, contact Morgan & Co. Our experience in hospitality marketing spans several decades, and our strategies are proven to generate an interest and consideration for our DMO clients.