Even though some U.S. states are already planning to open up, there is no sign that the pandemic will be under control soon. Travel is still the last thing on most people’s mind.
But travel will be a much-needed and pent-up outlet and celebratory occasion when this is all over. What travel executives need to do now is to understand the concerns and plans that consumers are having now about their future travel and start to prepare for recovery solutions.
Skift Research’s third monthly travel tracker survey signals some silver lining for the travel market. About a third of Americans in our survey indicated they would start to travel within three months after travel restrictions are lifted. However, the lingering fear about the virus and the new routines developed during the shelter-in-place will lead to changes in travel patterns, at least for the short term.
Last week we launched the latest report in our Skift Research service, U.S. Travel Tracker March 2020: Travel Sentiment Amid Lockdown.
When Will Consumers Resume Travel and What Will Change
For all companies that either directly or indirectly rely on travel for businesses, the burning questions are: Will people travel again? When will they start to travel? Will they travel the same way as prior to the pandemic? These are the questions that have already been widely discussed and analyzed by well-credited industry observers and experts. We believe that ultimately, the macro-level economic recovery and the individual-level adaptation phases to the post-Covid-19 reality are the two major defining factors for how these questions play out.
The trajectory of economic downturn and recovery aside, human psychology in dealing with stressful events will play an important role in what travel looks like after the pandemic. On the one hand, the traumatic fear and experience during the pandemic will make people drawn to activities and experiences that involve less exposure to crowds, more control of their surroundings and more assurances of cleanliness, at least in the short term, unless it becomes a new habit and norm because service companies scramble to match that demand. On the other hand, the mental and psychological drain caused by the mobility restraint might trigger a surge of impulsive travel.
Our survey results mostly echo the first theory. A majority of people want to wait until it’s safe to travel. And when they do travel, they want to stay in an apartment rental that they can wipe down, and don’t need to share with any strangers. They want to travel in their own car or a rented car instead of flying, and they want to avoid densely populated urban centers that used to be the scary epicenters of the pandemic. All these trauma-driven expectations provide tremendous value for travel companies to act on by offering services that can mitigate the lingering fear of Covid-19. On top of that, companies should also prepare themselves to inspire a new level of travel and service for people who desire to live differently after living through a once-in-a-lifetime disaster.
One Third of Americans Said They Would Start Travel Within Three Months After the Outbreak
The highest number comes from the group who said they would resume travel in four to six months after travel restrictions are lifted. They were eager to travel but will take cautious steps to make sure it’s safe and secure to travel.
Two-Thirds of Americans Expected Their First Trip to Be a Road Trip
Many industry observers have rooted for the revival of the U.S. train and bus system for the post Covid-19 travel. Our survey has yet to see that trend. Only 5 percent of surveyed Americans expected their first trip after the outbreak to be by train or bus, likely because those are public, shared spaces. Rather, our survey indicates that the private and controlled space offered by a car is most likely to be the first transportation method used by Americans who return to travel.