The Story of Travel’s Recovery in the U.S.

Head of Research and Insights
Published 5/6/20
Share This Post: 

Share This:

Four questions to U.S. Travelers tell the story of when and how travel will restart

Since March 2020, Longwoods International and Miles Partnership have been surveying U.S. travelers each week on their response to and travel behavior around the COVID-19 crisis.

In each survey, we have also asked a rotating set of four custom questions which tell us a lot about how U.S. travel will return, where travelers will turn to for information and what travel will look like when it comes back.

Here is the story of the travel’s recovery in the U.S. as told by these four questions and visualized in these graphs.

1. Dreaming About Travel & Supporting Locals

U.S. travelers continue to dream about future travel when it is possible to safely do so. The travel and leisure content of most interest to U.S. travelers during the crisis are deals and offers for “travel, dining and entertainment that they can be used in the future,” when it is appropriate to travel.  Travel remains a strong, aspirational priority for U.S. consumers.  U.S. travelers also want to eat out (by dining in) and support local businesses in any way they can.

Bottom Line:  Inspire U.S. travelers with content as they continue to think ahead to future travel opportunities, and highlight simple, effective ways for locals to support their business community and staff.

2. The Travel Timeline will be Controlled by the Health Experts

When asked what sources of information they would use to decide when it is safe to travel, U.S. travelers were definite.  “Official advice from the CDC and other federal government health agencies” dominated, followed by other federal and state government entities.  Despite still being interested in travel information including seeking deals and offers, U.S. travelers did not see these as indications that it was safe to travel.

Bottom Line:  Elevate expert government health advice and ensure marketing and communication efforts are aligned. This includes being able to quickly change preparations and messaging if the trajectory of the virus changes. Be nimble and be prepared for what could be a prolonged, uncertain recovery.

3. Familiar Faces and Places will Start the Recovery

U.S. travelers’ first ventures during recovery will be local, revisiting the activities, shops and restaurants they know and love. The recovery will start locally everywhere. Their first trip when it is appropriate and safe to travel is most likely to involve visiting friends and relatives (VFR) and be by car. The top three responses of U.S. travelers when questioned about their first trip priorities involved VFR.

Bottom Line: Engage with your locals to start your recovery and to encourage their friends and family to visit and stay longer.

4. Multimedia Storytelling

The travel content that engages and excites U.S. travelers during the crisis is consumed across a wide range of media. As outlined in our “Hyper-Informed Traveler” summary of research over the last ten years, today U.S. travelers dream, plan and book across a complex, highly fragmented range of media including both online and offline. In fact, the number one media consumed by U.S. travelers during the COVID-19 crisis are magazine and visitor guide articles followed by short online videos and travel shows on TV or OnDemand. 

Bottom Line: Reach, inspire and engage across a range of media including traditional channels. Consider a special “recovery” edition of your visitor guide targeting both locals, to get them out and about and inspire VFR travel, and nearby drive markets. This can be supported by a range of digital media content especially impactful short form video. 

Additional Resources: