Good News But With A Caution

Longwoods International has released Wave 57 of its ongoing tracking study of American travellers and this wave sees continued encouraging news from key Travel Sentiment Indicators that points to strong Spring Break and Summer Travel seasons ahead.

However, Longwoods International cautions that world events have caused it to look into the impact skyrocketing fuel costs are having on travel sentiment and the responses gives it cause for concern.

Longwoods International also noted that it has some new insights about travellers planning to attend festivals, meetings, and special events in the next few months.

A breakdown of the key findings reveal that:

Rising Gas Prices are replacing COVID-19 as a Travel Worry — Almost six in ten American travellers (59%) say that the current rise in gas prices will either impact (30%) or greatly impact (29%) their decision to travel in the next six months.

This is obviously a red flag that could slow down some of the pace of recovery in travel if the fallout of the crisis in the Ukraine on the oil markets is protracted.

It notes that historically, during past significant spikes in gas prices, we have seen travellers adjust to the extra cost by lowering their spend on accommodations, food and other categories in order to make sure they are able to take the trips they desire.

For example, a family may choose to stay at a limited service property instead of a full-service one because it is a lower price point and also typically saves them an expense on one meal as they usually include breakfast in the rate.

Regional drive markets have also traditionally fared better than longer-haul markets during such spikes.

Bottom Line: The industry should prepare for a higher level of price sensitivity among both business and leisure travellers this year.

Despite this significant concern among American travellers, a pandemic-high 92% indicate plans to travel in the next six months. This is a good indicator that the higher volume of travel will continue, but with certain accommodations for the extra costs as noted above.

A pandemic-low 21% of American travellers indicate that COVID-19 will greatly impact their decision to travel at this point, further pointing to the shift in mindset from pandemic to endemic travel.

A pandemic-high almost seven out of 10 (68%) of residents now support welcoming visitors back into their communities. (That still means about 3 out of 10 have concerns, so continue your community engagement strategies on responsible travel).

Leisure travel activities continue to recover. In addition to the two leading activities:  Visiting friends and relatives (47%) and road trips (42%), Americans planning to travel this spring continue to show increased interest in the great outdoors. There is also strong growth in intent to explore cities, visiting theme parks, and attending festivals & events, which signals a broader recovery across the leisure sector of travel.

That being said, 43% of American travellers planning to attend festivals and events in the next three to four months say that they have at least some level of concern about health risks related to COVID-19. Event organizers should note this concern and can improve the experience with making sure there is clarity in protocols and visible assistance for those who may be concerned (ex. visible sanitizer stations, availability of masks, some eating or rest areas with a little more space between tables, etc…).

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