Building a Bridge to the Future
TLN delivers positive news at virtual event
When Travel Leaders Network (TLN) welcomed a record number of travel industry professionals its three-day, virtual Bridge to the Future event in mid-October, it had some positive news to deliver on consumer travel plans going forward.
In research conducted in September – in conjunction with the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) – TLN found that “an overwhelming majority of US and Canadian travellers (99%) are eager to travel again, with 70% stating that they plan to take a vacation in 2021.”
And the results of the survey also reveal that 45% of respondents have already made plans or are starting to make finite plans for their next vacation, while 54% say they are dreaming of when they can travel again.
John Lovell, president of Travel Leaders Group, said: “These are really strong 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 travelers will lead the recovery.”
In fact, 23% of respondents said they plan to travel by the end of 2020, while 70% said they will travel in 2021 and only 18% saying they will resume travelling in 2022.
WTTC president & CEO, Gloria Guevara pointed out that: “Consumer uncertainty about the risk of exposure or concerns about being quarantined is a core problem.”
Guevara stated that: “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.”
Slow and steady
And 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 traveler counts averaged between 2.3 and 2.7 million passengers a day.
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.
A lesser number named concerns about them or a family member contracting the virus while traveling, worries about getting a refund if the trip is cancelled, and concerns about family members with higher risk health conditions.
A majority of survey respondents said the following health and safety initiatives at airports, aboard aircraft and at resorts will 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.
Said Lovell: “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.”
And he continued: “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 traveling public.”
Rapid testing is key
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.
Most of those surveyed who said they plan to take a vacation said they will fly to their next vacation destination (47%), 21% will drive, 17% said they plan to take an ocean cruise, with 5% opting for a river cruise.
Stephen McGillivray, chief marketing officer for Travel Leaders Group, said: “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.”
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.
For US travelers, uncrowded, outdoor and beach experiences topped the list of desired domestic destinations, with National Parks, Florida, Hawaii, Alaska, California and “anywhere uncrowded” high on the list while traditionally popular sites, such as New York and Nevada, scored lower.
For Canadians, British Columbia, Atlantic Canada, Alberta, Ontario, “anywhere uncrowded” and National Parks led the list.
Short booking windows
The survey results are validated by Travel Leaders Group’s online inquiries. Online leads declined in late March, reaching a low point on April 12 then peaking on June 14. 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. Milestone birthdays, anniversaries and honeymoons are popular reasons to travel. Camper vans and home and villa rentals are in high demand.
Many come seeking the expert advice of a travel advisor. Here’s a sampling of the inquiries:
- “Where can I go without self-quarantine?”
- “I need to get out of here, where can I go?”
- “I’ve never used a travel agent before…”
- “I NEED a travel agent.”
- “I am an avid cruiser always booked direct but need a travel agent to help me book them now.”
Said McGillivray: “Booking with a travel advisor is the best possible strategy to navigate the new world of travel. They can provide all the facts you need to know about destinations, requirements, how to protect your purchase, and best of all, they provide peace of mind.”
For more, go to www.TravelLeadersNetwork.com.