Glimmers of Hope: U.S. Study Finds Growing Interest in Travel
I wrote earlier today about how I felt things might, just might, be looking up for travel. Now comes a study out of the U.S. that suggests there are some glimmers of hope.
MMGY Global has been tracking the impact of COVID-19 on U.S. traveller sentiment and behaviors since this past March and it has some encouraging news for the travel industry heading into the holiday season. The latest findings from MMGY Travel Intelligence’s Travel Intentions Pulse Survey (TIPS) and MMGY Global’s Travel Safety Barometer show increasing confidence in the safety of domestic and international travel, cruising, dining and entertainment, business travel and lodging.
The stats are for U.S. travellers, but that’s a huge market.
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Domestic Travel Safety Barometer score rose above 50, indicating travellers are increasingly confident about the idea of traveling. The Barometer, which measures perceptions of safety on a scale of 0 (extremely unsafe) to 100 (extremely safe), rose to 52, which is 22 points higher than it was in April. Wave IX of the TIPS survey, conducted in late September, also found that 46% of respondents said they are likely to take a domestic leisure trip in the next six months.
Surprisingly, the International Travel Safety Barometer surged upward as well, increasing 6 points to 38 in October. Twenty-five percent of TIPS respondents said they are likely to take an international leisure trip during the next six months, up from 18% in Wave VIII.
After months of stagnation, the October Business Travel Safety Barometer displayed promising signs of recovery, increasing from 38 to 41, a 12-point increase from the May score. The news is slightly better for conference and convention planners as well. The Travel Safety Barometer score for attending a conference or convention jumped from 30 in September to 35 in October, a 16% spike. As meeting planners and conference organizers debate the future of large group gatherings, this score will be one to watch closely in the months ahead.
For the past several survey waves, the Cruise Travel Safety Barometer has been stuck in the low- to mid-20s, a score that has consistently ranked at the bottom of all travel categories for safety. However, between September and October, the score increased a full 7 points, rising from 24 to 31. While the industry is clearly a long way from where it needs to go to affect cruise bookings, especially from new cruisers, it is a welcome signal that travellers may finally be getting more comfortable setting sail.
The TIPS survey also found travelers to be more assured about participating in all forms of dining and entertainment activities. Outdoor travel experiences continue to be perceived as safer than indoor experiences, with travelers feeling safest going to a state/national park and to the beach. These activities’ respective Barometer scores hit record highs in October.
Getting people traveling again is a complex puzzle for the industry to solve, and research shows that even when a vaccine becomes available, travelers aren’t necessarily rushing out to get it. The TIPS survey has found that the availability of a vaccine would have the greatest impact on respondents’ decisions about future travel. However, consent to receiving the vaccine remains problematic. Half of respondents (49%) would wait at least a few months to get it, while 11% state they would not consent to being vaccinated at all.
MMGY Travel Intelligence’s Travel Intentions Pulse Survey is conducted monthly among 1,200 U.S. residents who have taken an overnight trip for either business or leisure in the past 12 months. Wave IX of the survey was conducted Sept. 21–28, 2020, and Wave VIII was conducted August 21–31, 2020. The full report is available here on www.mmgyintel.com.