The global travel industry is testing the waters very carefully as it plans ahead for crisis recovery. And monitoring consumer behaviors and emerging trends will show them when and where to start promoting destination travel again.
Airlines, cruise ships and resorts are examining how to re-open and provide the safest experiences for consumers, by addressing their biggest concerns. And to help with that, in this piece, we’ll explore market research supporting:
- What the post pandemic travel industry looks like right now
- How the industry is preparing to move forward and tackle consumer concerns
- Top destinations for consumers and insight around why they’re winning
And these insights offer intel brands should keep to-of-mind:
- Airport traffic has dropped as much as 92%.
- 72% of consumers in the US and UK are spending more time on social media per day since the outbreak of coronavirus – giving brands an opportunity to get in their sights
- 0% of traveling consumers felt assured by safety measures at the airport
The State of Travel Today
The end of February marked the beginning of the shutdown, including travel plans of any kind. To alleviate the disappointment, consumers found coping mechanisms, humor being chief among them:
And now we are on the precipice of change again, as travel is opening up and plans for holidays and vacations are coming. Or so people hope.
Looking at our timeline of conversation, the narrative shifts from Vacation Homes and Urgent Travel Advice in January, to the overall theme of cancelations in March of 2020. And recently in July the two top categories of European Holiday Travel and Leisure Travel Regulations are dominating. There are conversations around which countries are re-opening for travel, and how resorts and vacation hubs are responding.
Though airport travel has dropped 92%, it appears consumers are gearing up to change that and get back to exploring the world.
Indicators & Emerging Trends Signaling Travel Crisis Recovery
The blanket question of “How will we know when we’re ready” applies to a variety of industries – and travel is no exception.
Our Quid cluster reveals the conversations around travel readiness over the past year, as well as other emerging trends. Many articles prior to coronavirus speak enthusiastically about seeing the world, whereas anything after March holds travel in a discouraging light. And cruise ships? We’re seeing smaller cruise ships resume in Europe, however most cruise lines are postponing setting sail until September and even into November:
Most articles are approaching travel cautiously, but this one seems to say it all for Americans.
Beyond articles, brands are anxiously monitoring consumers as they talk about this sticky subject on social media. And with social media consumption on the rise and 72% of consumers in the US and UK saying they’re spending more time on social media per day since the outbreak of coronavirus, brands are smart to recognize how important this direct link between consumers and businesses has become! And, as a result, they’ve upped their social media monitoring game!
To that end, a summary metric gives us travel ready reading glasses to see what the real sentiment has been this past month. Because even though market research said that people were largely unready, the positive sentiment marked in green seems to say otherwise. We also have a spike in positive sentiment around June 19th which we will explore further.
Clicking on that spike reveal posts detailing two quite different approaches in traveling. Our first speaks of making rail car travel more efficient and affordable, and the other speaks of canceling travel plans due to COVID-19 fears.
Airbnb & Others Avoiding Cancellations
And then as we explore further, we can see Airbnb bookings increasing over the weekend of June 5–7, with their gross “reservations” growing for the first time since February.
If reservations are any indicator, maybe consumers are more ready than some of the articles written about them imply.
In the U.S., hotel occupancy rose to 30.1% for the weekend of May 9, and although most hotels are still at 25% occupancy, there is growing hope as some cities are slowly seeing increases. One example is (surprisingly) New York City, where the occupancy levels are now in the 40 percent range. And overall, economy hotels are also in the 40% occupancy range, which contrasts with luxury hotels that are coming in under 17%.
Our social media analytics-informed word cloud reveals even more. Consumer emotion around travel is positive, with big expressions of Love, Great and Interested.
The somewhat conflicting information about travel is why it’s critical for brands to have BOTH consumer intelligence, via social media analytics and market intelligence. It’s the combination of the two that helps brands navigate the waters of these would-be travelers.
Where Consumers Are Traveling and Why
As people begin to fly the friendly skies again, airlines are offering slashed prices and deals. And some of the deals are a bit . . . odd, or they would be if not for the pandemic.
Emirates Airlines offers free COVID-19 insurance that will cover your medical expenses and – wait for it – funeral costs, should you contract COVID-19.
And destinations are offering similarly odd incentives, like the island of Cyprus. It’s offering free COVID-19 care if you end up needing it while vacationing there. Granted, they’ve had less than 1,000 cases of the virus, but they are still trying to reassure travelers to trust them. And this is an excellent example of where the tourism industry is today. It has to closely monitor the state of things and offer options to help consumers feel safe.
So where are consumers traveling? It looks like vacation plans include staying close to home, with 32% percent of consumers saying they expect to go on more domestic trips. And our social media analysis bears that out. We also see that 52% are holding out hope and will wait and see, booking their trips last minute.
That being said, 18.2% of American travelers anticipate putting the pedal to the metal for a road trip in August. Will that hold true as we charge into this final summer month, with COVID numbers holding steady? Time will tell. And brands that are monitoring consumer and market intelligence closely will be ready for whichever way the virus travels.
Be sure to reach out for a demo and we can help you make sure you’re downwind and ready to make the most of (or adequately prepare for) whatever heads your way!