• December 10, 2023

The Travel Sector Is Poised for a Strong 2021 Recovery

To understand how consumers travel with vaccinations rising in 2021, look at the data

By Eric Bramberger, Senior Vice President Hospitality at Zeta Global

A year after the pandemic started and with summer in sight, consumers are itching to travel to a new place and restore a sense of normalcy to their lives. Some have already defied heaven as restrictions imposed by the CDC ease and airlines start again to occupy the middle seats after a difficult 2020 to recoup revenue.

At Zeta Global, we wanted to better understand Americans’ attitudes towards travel this spring and beyond, to gain a glimpse of how the travel and tourism sectors could rebound. In March, we conducted a survey of 3,700 consumers in the United States as more Americans begin to consider their comfort when they return to travel. When we surveyed both vaccinated and unvaccinated consumers, we found some interesting insights into how both groups handle travel differently this year, as well as the top domestic destinations for both groups. Airlines, hotels and restaurants take note: 2021 will be their comeback year.

Expect a boom after Memorial Day

Last summer, health officials were on high alert when they locked the country down before holidays like Memorial Day and Memorial Day 4th of Julyto prevent coronavirus spikes. This year will look very different with nearly half of the US population have received at least one dose of vaccine.

Most of the respondents in our survey, both vaccinated and unvaccinated, said they won’t feel comfortable on an airplane until after May of this year – including the Memorial Day holidays. While resorts and airlines continue to offer deals for those willing to travel to destinations further afield, the tourism sector may have to look to July 4th or longer to see that revenue really come back. It’s not all a loss, however – consumers are still ready to travel locally. A current survey from AAA showed that 80% of respondents’ planned vacations would be road trips. Road traffic may be at an all-time high this summer, but vacation spots and businesses that struggled last year have a glimmer of hope as Americans continue to populate the streets.

Evidence of vaccination is a key issue

Stick to those with vaccination cards: while travelers don’t need proof of vaccination just yet, there is sure to be a chance it could come into play. In our survey, there was a clear gap between people who want to return to normal travel without proof of vaccination and people who don’t mind taking the extra step of reporting their vaccination status. Respondents who had not yet received the vaccine were almost twice as likely to be against flying mandates to prove vaccination for flying.

Although it may take some time for a vaccination record to become part of our new normal, travelers who plan to fly internationally, in particular, should pay close attention to the regulations on proof of vaccination and plan accordingly. Companies in the tourism sector such as hotels, car services, restaurants and tour operators should use this time to prepare plans for potential vaccination certificates as a prerequisite for travel. This mandate would later lead to more costs for the creation of infrastructure and communication around the proof of vaccination and affect the daily workflow of a company. It is therefore important to plan ahead.

Tourist and outdoor friendly destinations are returning strongly

While many are reluctant to travel, it doesn’t mean people don’t travel at all – many airports across the country are report dramatic upward movements Findings from Zeta’s data cloud show that there are some popular destinations for both vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers: New York City, Orlando, Denver, Atlanta, Tampa, and Dallas. Interestingly, these cities include popular tourist destinations, warm weather locations, and major airline hubs.

Vaccinated travelers were more likely to visit destinations in the Northeast and Midwest, according to Zeta Data Cloud. Cities like Minneapolis-St. Paul, Columbus, Oh., Boston, Baltimore, Cincinnati, and Washington, DC were all top spots for vaccinated travelers. Meanwhile, unvaccinated travelers who oppose heaven are more likely to choose destinations on the southeast and west coasts such as Houston, Miami-Ft. Lauderdale, Los Angeles, Salt Lake City, San Antonio and Austin. With summer weather already in full swing in many of these locations, it’s no surprise that travelers want to travel to cities that are abundant in outdoor activities and pleasant alfresco dining conditions. Local businesses in these locations should plan for leisure and business traveler activities to increase during the summer months.

Check your local listings

As tourism increases, it is encouraging to know that many travelers pay close attention to how local rules and restrictions on eating, collecting, and masking change from state to state. Our survey found that 81% of people who were vaccinated reported some level of concern about local restrictions when traveling, while 38% of those who were not vaccinated said they were concerned. However, vaccinated people tend to be far more concerned about local restrictions than those who haven’t been vaccinated: In our survey, a whopping 62% of non-vaccinated respondents said they were “not at all” concerned with local restrictions.

Knowing this feeling and concern among vaccinated and unvaccinated Americans could be helpful in planning their trips who do not observe safety precautions. Companies in areas with high numbers of unvaccinated people should also take note of and double-check enforcement of local restrictions to ensure their customers are safe and comply with CDC and government guidelines.

For the month of April, the Zeta Data Cloud provides an average lead time for consumers from booking to arrival at the property of 16.1 days. This is the highest property-level arrival we’ve seen since February 2020. If you want to travel soon, don’t wait until the last minute.

While the past year has taught us that there is no telling what might happen in the future, the world has come together to push for a recovery from the pandemic faster than ever. Entrepreneurs have many opportunities to bring us new services and innovations into our new normal and established companies to continue to survive and slowly recover. Travelers are returning strong and the tourism sector should be prepared to open its doors and take security measures to ensure we can travel on for many months to come.

The views and opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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