After seemingly endless months of lockdowns, masks and Netflix, there’s one thing for sure – people are itching to travel again. And according to a recent Virtuoso survey, 93% said they’d never again take the opportunity to travel for granted. That being the case, we’ll explore the summer trends to watch as consumers return to travel.
Safety is still the number one concern, while the financial toll that the pandemic put on consumers’ wallets will likely lead to differing results over age demographics. Any way you slice it, however, the travel conversation is massive, and we’ll sort through a few of the takeaways using social listening to get some answers.
For instance, here’s the travel conversation year-over-year, filtered by several travel themes, showing how consumers are leaning. Although we’ve yet to reach pre-pandemic levels of mentions, Adventure Travel and the Beach trips are popular choices right now – with increased mentions since the beginning of 2021 and the vaccine roll-out. But enclosed spaces, like road trips and cruises still feeling unsafe for many.
And although numbers are low, sentiment toward “travel” overall is high, with both travel anticipation and travel intent exceeding pre-pandemic impression levels, demonstrating the importance of looking beyond volume of mentions when seeking to make predictions around consumer behavior. Because, although there are less posts, consumers are watching, waiting and eager to get back to traveling, and posts on the topic are connecting with wider audiences, generating significant impressions.
Consumers are watching to see what happens and destinations in every category will want to closely monitor traveler conversations in real-time.
Social media listening offers a goldmine of market intelligence for brands to understand the reemerging travel industry. We’ll explore the conversation with a look at:
- Why the travel reboot looks promising
- How consumers’ itineraries are changing
- Ways social listening tracks consumers on the move
Before we dive in, here are a few recent travel statistics that speak to the shift in consumer thought towards travel.
- The U.S. Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) recently released their Air Travel Consumer Report for March 2021, which showed 461,222 domestic flights for the month. It’s not quite back to pre-pandemic levels but shows significant growth against the all-time low of 180,151 domestic flights in May of 2020.
- A survey conducted in January 2021 found 26% of Americans were already 100% confident traveling, while 39% would only be confident when the majority of the population had been vaccinated. Regardless, 77% said they intended to travel at some point this year.
- S. airlines transported 61% fewer passengers in November 2020 compared to November 2019. That decline was the smallest year-over-year drop since the pandemic began indicating a turning point on the long road back to normalcy.
With that, let’s see what all the optimism is about.
Why The Travel Reboot Looks Promising
Brands using social listening to take the global travel temperature have already seen the shift in sentiment happening. However, many areas of the world are still enduring lockdowns as they continue to wrestle with the logistics of containing the coronavirus.
However, vaccines are rolling out, and to many, have been the light at the end of the tunnel. And the one thing that’s on everybody’s mind is getting out of the house. In areas where restrictions have been lifted, and vaccines are being administered effectively, people are getting their travel plans squared away.
We used social media listening to slice the global travel conversation last year and compare it with this year. From March to December of last year, over 118 million mentions and 104 million social media posts talked about travel. As you can imagine, the net sentiment wasn’t too high in the conversation at only 10% on a scale of -100 to 100.
Conversely, looking at travel conversations from January to June 2021 show an increase in net sentiment to 15%. That doesn’t seem like much until you get a little farther from January, as it was exceedingly negative at -11%. This was primarily due to uncertainties with vaccine rollouts and the turmoil surrounding the U.S. presidential inauguration.
However, focusing on the past three months ending at the first of June shows the shift in consumer sentiment towards travel leaping up to 26%. It makes sense as we’ve moved from speculations about vaccines to implementation, and people feel good about it. Here’s the word cloud associated with the travel conversations over the past three months showing significant amounts of consumer optimism.
As consumer enthusiasm finally emerges from the doldrums of 2020, brands need to use their social media listening tools to stay abreast of the conversation going forward and beat their competition. That’s because we’ve also noticed a 102% increase in potential post impressions throughout May.
This is a strong indicator that consumers are following travel-themed content creators with renewed interest. That said, there’s likely to be much market intelligence to be had for brands with interests in the travel industry as summer begins.
How Consumers’ Itineraries are Changing
There’s no doubt consumers are curious about air travel. We mentioned road trips at the beginning of this post, and while there are tons of people talking about traveling by car, it pales by orders of magnitude to the social media posts regarding flights. Here’s a look at the conversational volume on travel using social listening tools to filter for flights and road trips over the past six months.
The statistics we shared above pointed to a shift with the slowing downturn in air travel back in November of 2020. Road trips happened to have an uptick in mentions simultaneously as a relative few people traveled back home for the holidays.
What we see with air travel is that the social conversations are still leaning in the direction of hesitancy. Social listening reveals many users are still unsure of their safety as there are still many people who remain unvaccinated.
That said, what’s interesting for brands from a market intelligence perspective is that sentiment around cars and RVs as a safer method of travel is growing far faster than air travel despite the discrepancy in volume.
A year ago, sentiment for car travel only fell to 44, while air travel dropped to 19. Six months ago, net sentiment for flights slid further to 14, and car travel fell one point to 43.
In the last three months, we saw sentiment around cars top 60, with flights at 26. However, the most significant jump was this past month as road trip sentiment hit a soaring 73, while air travel sentiment only nudged up to 30.
What this suggests for brands to consider is – right now, it’s far easier and safer, from a consumer’s perspective, to jump in the car and go. That may be the go-to route for messaging right now as summer unfolds. And while that’s ongoing, you can use your social listening to inform your consumer market intelligence on opinions about air travel as more populations receive the vaccine.
Ways Social Listening Tracks Consumers on the Move
So, right now, the air travel conversation is fraught with indecision over whether social media users want to deal with the hassle. This is especially true regarding international trips. We’re just not quite out of the woods with the pandemic for everyone to be jumping on board. Hopefully, circumstances will allow that to become the case over the next several months.
However, travel continues to be a hot-button topic with social media users. Consumers are hungry to get out and about, leading to trending hashtags such as #roadtrip and #daytrip.
That said, what consumers need from you is ideas, inspiration and how your brand’s products can help them have a safer and more enjoyable journey. Social media listening will go a long way to uncover consumer needs and wants so you can craft messaging that gets them excited.
As we get deeper into the summer travel season, use social listening to identify gaps in social content and messaging to help your consumers get creative with their travel plans. Do it right, and you’ll come out ahead of other brands waiting for normalcy.
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