Skift Take

This was the week that broke the camel’s back. Skift Research believes that effectively all short-term bookings in the U.S. have been canceled at this point. Three weeks ago that would’ve been a shocking statement; today not so much.

Coronavirus has been making its way across the globe, shutting down travel in its wake. First Asia, then Europe, and now the U.S. travel industry is coming to a halt as well. Skift Research shows that nearly half of Americans who were still holding travel plans canceled them this past week.

Skift Research is continuing its data-driven approach to tracking the impact of coronavirus on the travel industry by updating our polling of the U.S. traveling public. Our third coronavirus cancellation poll of the U.S. online adult population was conducted from Mar. 13–15 (see the first two here and here). We reached 421 Americans who had previously booked travel plans. Of that traveling population, 46 percent had canceled due to concerns around coronavirus this week.

Our past survey work indicated that most Americans were taking a wait-and-see approach to handling their travel plans in this time of coronavirus. But that time seems to have passed now. Cancellation figures, after hovering in the mid-teens for the last three weeks, skyrocketed this week to 46 percent.

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What’s more, in the past, our data indicated that most cancellations were taking place on international itineraries. But here again, our data shows a stark reversal. Sixty-five percent of cancellations this past week were for domestic travel, up notably from 42 percent two weeks ago and just 24 percent in early February.

This is a clear and dramatic reaction by the American traveling public to new travel restrictions and public health measures put in place by the Trump administration and local governments.

Given the dire state of things you might ask why our cancellation data does not read 100 percent. Keep in mind that half of all American travelers book their flights more than two months in advance. That comes pretty close to our 54 percent figure for Americans still holding onto their travel plans. Said another way, we believe that effectively all short-term travel in the U.S. has been canceled as of this week. At this point, that is no longer such a shocking statement.

The first part of the battle is lost and we are now left playing to keep the long-range bookings that have already been made.

This also leads us to the most important questions now facing our industry: How long will the virus outbreak last? And how quickly will demand bounce back once we begin to heal? Those are still unknowns for now, but Skift and Skift Research will continue our coverage until this crisis ends.


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Tags: cancellations, coronavirus, skift research

Photo credit: Beaches across Florida are closing to the public. 384372

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