On the back of fresh efforts to quell the spread of the coronavirus pandemic across the U.S., travelers are expressing fierce desire and confidence to return to the skies.
ICF Next recently published its Covid-19 Monitor Survey — the first survey refresh since its previous iteration in December — featuring feedback from 510 self-declared frequent travelers on their intentions to fly again in the coming months.
While much data in the broader market focuses on all travelers, the data presented in the ICF Next survey features responses uniquely from “frequent travelers.” The 510 individuals surveyed described themselves as reporting traveling out of state for business or pleasure, weekly, monthly, or a “few times per year” prior to the pandemic.
Respondents were drawn from a national, mobile, non-probability panel of 2.5 million people in the U.S. Each was presented a series of questions covering topics including: the impact of the pandemic on their personal and professional lives, their pandemic travel behaviors, anticipated future behaviors, responses to vaccination efforts and public health measures, and timing of future travel.
SkiftX unpacks the latest stats and key takeaways:
STRONG RECOVERY CONFIDENCE
Overwhelmingly, survey participants expressed strong confidence that the worst of the pandemic was seen throughout 2020. This is in strong contrast to the 30 percent confidence reported in December last year.
Anticipating a strong recovery during the later half of 2020, the majority of respondents expressed they were eager for, and already planning, a major return to pre-pandemic travel behavior through the upcoming summer and fall.
Though many canceled their summer travel plans in 2020 — including plans across the key travel periods of Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and the December holidays — four out of five who traditionally travel during the summer months expressed that they’re planning to return to the skies throughout mid-to-late 2021.
The data demonstrated a clear correlation between positive virus case numbers and confidence levels overall.
MIXED CONFIDENCE IN BRANDS
While a clear majority of frequent travelers indicated strong confidence in the efforts of hotel and airline brands to deal with the coronavirus, a third expressed uncertainty about their abilities to respond to the ongoing pandemic.
Sixty-five percent of participants expressed either “a great deal” or “a fair amount” of confidence in airlines’ abilities, while 67 percent of respondents showed confidence in hotels.
VACCINATION UPTAKE IS HIGH AMONG FREQUENT TRAVELERS
Given their desire to return to the skies again as soon as possible, frequent travelers appear more likely to have been vaccinated — and have gone through their vaccine series sooner — than those who travel infrequently.
A likely motivation is that frequent travelers reported greater levels of disruption in their daily lives as a result of the pandemic, with higher percentages reporting decreased income and reductions to salary than infrequent travelers.
Though participants indicated that distancing and face mask measures were still important for limiting the spread of the coronavirus, they deemed these measures 10 percent less important compared to December 2020.
Following vaccination efforts, participants felt it was now less likely that they would get sick with coronavirus. Twenty-eight percent reported they felt “somewhat likely” or “very likely” they’ll get sick with coronavirus — a contrast to 47 percent in December.
COMFORT LEVELS ARE DESTINATION-DEPENDENT
After extensive lockdowns and limitations, frequent travelers reported their eagerness to get moving and back into the world again.
The majority of participants expressed plans to travel as much as they used to before the pandemic, with 36 percent reporting that they plan to travel even more.
Comfort levels regarding travel fluctuated depending on the destination. While Europe, Puerto Rico, and Mexico rated the lowest on this destination comfort index, frequent travelers expressed the most comfort with domestic U.S. routes, including large U.S. cities (aside from New York City) and routes throughout the Southwest, such as Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, Utah, and Nevada.