Travel bug still alive and biting

NEW YORK, 20 October 2020: An overwhelming majority of US and Canadian travellers (99%) are eager to travel again, with 70% stating that they plan to take a holiday in 2021, according to a Travel Leaders Group survey conducted in conjunction with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

The results of a survey of 3,000 frequent travellers in September indicated that 45% of respondents have already made plans or are starting to make finite plans for their next holiday, while 54% said they were dreaming of when they can travel again.

“These are solid numbers. The fact that 99% of travellers surveyed said they are planning a trip or looking forward to the time they can travel again indicates that as concerns about Covid-19 are addressed, leisure travellers will lead the recovery,” said Travel Leaders Group president John Lovell.

Travel plans

In the survey, 23% of respondents said they plan to travel by the end of 2020, 70% said they would travel in 2021 with just 18% saying they will resume travelling in 2022.

“Consumer uncertainty about the risk of exposure or concerns about being quarantined is a core problem,” said WTTC President & CEO Gloria Guevara. “With rapid testing to replace quarantine requirements, enhanced contact tracing and industry-wide standards by sector that can be clearly communicated to the public, we can help alleviate many of those concerns.”

The willingness of Americans to travel can be seen in the slow, but steady, increase in the Transportation Security Administration’s (TSA) daily screening numbers, which fell below 90,000 a day in April and are now approaching 1 million a day at peak periods. In 2019, TSA daily traveller counts averaged between 2.3 and 2.7 million passengers a day.

Health and safety

More than half of travellers surveyed say they are concerned about the risk of being infected when travelling on a plane or cruise ship, getting stuck while away from home or being quarantined on a cruise ship or at a hotel.

Some of the surveyed travellers said they had concerns about family member contracting the virus while travelling, plus worries about getting a refund if they had to cancel the trip.

A majority of survey respondents said the following health and safety initiatives at airports, aboard aircraft and at resorts would make a big difference in their decision to travel in the future: mandatory masks, social distancing, enhanced cleaning, temperature checks and access to sanitizing gel. For resorts, contact-free services and customizable room cleaning were also cited.

“Our industry needs to do more to inform potential travellers about all of the health and safety protocols that have been implemented across the industry and continue to standardize those protocols to restore consumer confidence in travel,” said Lovell. “Airlines, airports and cruise lines have made major strides in the health and hygiene measures they have taken in close consultation with the world’s leading medical experts. We need to share that story with the travelling public.”

Nearly 60% of respondents said the requirement of a negative PCR test prior to arrival in a destination would make no difference or would be viewed as a positive, while about 40% said such a requirement would be a deterrent. Those concerns can be addressed with rapid testing, Lovell said. “We believe the widespread availability of rapid testing will result in greater acceptance of pre-trip testing and encourage more people to travel,” he stated.

Destinations

Most of those surveyed who said they plan to take a holiday said they will fly to their next holiday destination (47%), 21% will drive, 17% said they plan to take an ocean cruise, with 5% opting for a river cruise.

“We continue to see strong interest in domestic travel, beach destinations and less crowded destinations in both the US and Canada, while the popularity of Europe across the board is encouraging,” said   Travel Leaders Group chief marketing officer Stephen McGillivray.

Europe (38%), the Caribbean (34%) and Mexico (15%) are the top-ranked international destinations of interest, followed by Canada (for US travellers), Central and South America, Australia, Africa and Asia.

The survey results are validated by the Travel Leaders Group’s online inquiries. Online leads declined in late March, reaching a low point on 12 April then peaking on 14 June. Following a second outbreak of Covid-19 in some areas, leads dropped again and are now on the upswing, up 88% from the low in April, McGillivray said. Close-in booking windows are a trend among online shoppers. The majority of consumers reaching out online want to travel by the year’s end 2020, followed by January/February 2021, spring and summer.

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