During Skift Global Forum, we surveyed the travel industry’s decision-makers to determine what the industry thinks they know about consumers given the current landscape, what assumptions are being made, and where there may be a disconnect.
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Is traveler confidence returning? Back in March 2020, we saw travel come to an abrupt stop, but there was no telling how long it would remain paused. Despite continuous forecasting and predictions by industry experts, there’s still a fair amount of gray area surrounding travel’s return. When will the majority of consumers feel safe enough to start traveling again? What should the industry be implementing in terms of new safety protocols?
AIG Travel recently surveyed over 3,000 US-based travel consumers, taking a pulse on the travel consumer mindset, if trips are being booked, and if not, what needs to change to make people comfortable enough to travel. Skift surveyed our Skift Global Forum audience of over 1,000 travel industry executives across all sectors of the industry with the intent to compare results. In comparing the consumer-led data to the industry polling, we hope to provide travel leaders with guidance during this uncertain time, and offer a glimpse into current travel consumer sentiment.
When will people be ready to travel again?
Unsurprisingly, most consumers are planning to stay local for the rest of the year. Of those surveyed, 87 percent don’t intend to travel internationally during the rest of 2020. However, 42 percent do plan to travel outside of their home states this year.
We asked the industry: Is tourism in the middle of a paradigm shift or merely a temporary upset? Almost half, 49 percent, say it’s a temporary upset — in 18 to 24 months, tourism will be back to where it was pre-crisis. In fact, 57 percent of surveyed travel leaders say their companies are planning for consumers to start traveling in 2021. More than half are optimistic about travel’s recovery, but think any rebound will extend well into 2022.
TRAVELER CONFIDENCE: How are people thinking about travel right now?
The previous section shows that industry experts are optimistic for travel’s recovery. But the speed of recovery will depend on some external factors, like preventing — or at the very least, curbing — the spread of the virus. The industry is hopeful that pent-up demand will get people traveling again soon. What are consumers thinking?
Are the protocols and safety measures brands are implementing actually working?
We’ve established that Covid-19 related concerns are what’s stopping consumers from traveling. In response, we’ve seen travel brands implementing measures such as increased hygiene protocols, reduced flight capacities, social distancing rules, and contactless travel procedures at rapid speeds. But are these policies comforting the consumer? How are travel patterns changing?
Interestingly, when asked what their companies are focused on, only 17 percent of industry executives surveyed said their company was viewing testing as top priority to consumer comfort despite an acknowledgement that more testing and faster results would speed up travel’s return.
Another business effort that may help speed travel’s recovery is contactless technology. Most agree that contactless travel will be more important than ever — 83 percent of industry executives say the pandemic has made contactless tech more desirable.
Because flying is one of the environments where travelers perceive they might have a higher risk of infection, the consumer survey took a closer look at sentiment around air travel specifically. In the data below, we get a glimpse of what measures brands can take for consumers to feel safe enough to travel again.
If leisure travel does indeed begin to return in 2021, what will consumers be motivated by?
Of course, taking a look at flying might be jumping a little ahead. According to Skift Research, 41 percent of Americans say their first trip will be by car within 100 miles. Road trips and travel centered around the outdoors are slated to be the first to return. Mode of transportation aside, we surveyed the industry on what they think will motivate consumers when booking their next trip.