Covid Travel Outlook 2021: Indagare Travel Sentiment Survey Results

Here are the results of Indagare’s latest Travel Sentiment Survey, with opinions from more than 1,200 respondents surveyed, who offered their perspectives on travel during Covid, conducted one year after the pandemic was officially declared.Our recent Indagare Travel Sentiment Survey pinpoints new attitudes about how members of our community are feeling about travel during Covid—and once vaccines become more widespread. Where are people traveling internationally and domestically now? Where do they want to go next and why? How safe do they feel on airplanes? What is driving your travel plans? With vaccination availability increasing, we expect to see a significant uptick in once-in-a-lifetime trips, based on the results of the survey. We know many of you can’t wait to get back to Europe and other destinations abroad that remain inaccessible. In the meantime, we will continue to gather all of the latest intelligence on what is open to Americans until then and are here to advise you on safe travels for the months ahead. Read on for the results of our latest community survey.RelatedIndagare’s Guide to Traveling Safely and Responsibly During Covid

Health & Safety First

Amid news about Covid variants and the promise of more widespread distribution of new and existing vaccines around the globe (and especially in the U.S.), travelers polled by Indagare indicated they are hopeful and excited about travel, while remaining somewhat cautious: Thirty percent of respondents have now indicated their perspective on travel has shifted to a cautious and safety-first mindset. By contrast, travelers polled by Indagare in May 2020, just six weeks after WHO declared Covid-19 a pandemic, were hopeful but anxious, and 84 percent said their primary concern was exposure to others or becoming ill while traveling. The shift may be subtle, but indicates a more optimistic outlook on travel now, 11 months later. A top concern among travelers surveyed is still the risk of spreading the virus, rather than becoming sick from it. Just shy of 40 percent of travelers (39.61 percent) indicated they were extremely concerned about the potential of exposing others and loved ones to Covid. It’s also clear that travelers surveyed feel a sense of personal responsibility and accountability when it comes to making travel decisions that could impact others. “I have been traveling domestically to limited destinations for extended periods of time. I feel responsible to do my part to prevent the spread of the virus,” explained one respondent. “I can't wait to travel internationally, but feel responsible to the global community not to do so until I am vaccinated.” Nearly one third (30.6 percent) of those surveyed will not travel until vaccinated or until the CDC declares travel is safe or for the foreseeable future. There are also clear indications that there is still some anxiety about being exposed to Covid while traveling and not having access to proper medical care. When it comes to how Covid influences future travel decision-making more broadly, some travelers indicated that they are still in wait-and-see mode and that they would only travel if absolutely necessary; some are still “Quarandreaming;” and others said they are “yearning to escape,” “starting to plan” and “ready to go.” Interestingly, the hassles of testing and quarantining are not seen as impediments to travel today or in the future, which suggests travelers have become more adaptable and accepting of the use of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and the necessary protocols that have been put in place to protect them as much as possible. More than half of respondents (53 percent) are not at all or only slightly concerned by quarantine protocols before and after travel. Based on current reports, mask-wearing and sanitization measures are likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future and into 2022.

An Appetite for Travel

It is also apparent that there is an increasing appetite for travel among those surveyed: Nearly one quarter (21 percent) of respondents have not traveled, but are interested in traveling soon. Once vaccines are widely available, a significantly higher number of travelers (43 percent) said they will travel more than before to make up for lost travels. “The surging appetite for travel has led to terms such as ‘vaxications’ and ‘revenge travel,’” says Indagare founder Melissa Biggs Bradley. “People want to make up for the travel time they feel was stolen from them in 2020.”And 25 percent said they are more grateful and appreciative of the opportunity to travel than they were pre-Covid. One traveler said, “I didn’t know how good we had it before, until it was gone.” Another said, “We can no longer take for granted the wonderful ability to see the is truly a gift.” After the vaccine, 39 percent say they will travel more than before specifically to see and connect with loved ones. Two thirds (63 percent) will travel for the same duration as before the pandemic, but 25 percent will take longer trips (of 15 days or more) than before. All of this is very good news for the travel industry, which has suffered unprecedented losses since the pandemic began. In its worst case scenario forecast of a 12-month break in international tourism, the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) projects losses of up to $3.3 trillion or 4.2 percent of global GDP. According to the U.S. Travel Association, in the U.S. alone, since the beginning of March through the end of 2020, the pandemic resulted in $492 billion in cumulative losses for the U.S. travel economy. Travel spending totaled $679 billion in 2020, a 42 percent annual decline (nearly $500 billion) from 2019. International travel and business travel also saw steep declines with international travel spending falling 76 percent (compared to 34 percent for domestic travel) for leisure travel. According to Forbes, in the first 10 months of 2020, the pandemic cost the tourism industry $935 billion in lost revenue worldwide.

Where to Next? 

Our survey also indicated a very real pent-up demand for travel. Of those 39 percent surveyed who have traveled, Florida was the No. 1 domestic destination, followed by Colorado, California, Utah, Georgia, New York, Maine and Hawaii rounding out the top eight since Covid began. Mexico landed at the top for international travel. And perhaps unsurprisingly, the No. 1 destination travelers want to go to in the next two years was Europe (73 percent), followed by the United States (39 percent) and then Asia and Southeast Asia (34 percent). What is the most popular mode of transportation for those that have traveled during the pandemic? Flying and driving were, interestingly, close (80 percent vs. 71 percent); 13 percent said they opted to fly private. Smaller numbers have traveled by train or yacht (7 percent and 5 percent, respectively) Another 30.3 percent indicated that they would be willing to splurge on private air in the future. We also asked those traveling how safe they felt flying since last May and the answer was encouraging: The 39 percent of those who say they have traveled since Spring 2020 ranked the safety of their trips an 8 out of 10 (10 = extremely safe). Travelers who have taken a flight also put flight safety at an 8 out of 10, showing that those who have chosen to travel during the pandemic felt safe doing so. Those who have not felt as safe flying have opted for driving trips. “I've traveled domestically by car,” offers one recent traveler we polled,  “but I am not fully comfortable with all the exposures involved in flying. I am getting the vaccine and will travel as soon as international travel is opened up.” That sentiment was echoed by another traveler who said, “I have done lots of road trips around the West Coast but am not excited about a long flight until the vaccine has been widely distributed.” The vaccine seems to be a key turning point for some travelers in determining when they will feel more ready to travel again: “I don’t feel comfortable, but I have traveled domestically, mostly private. After my second vaccine in two weeks, I will fly commercially again.” The good news is that since the distribution of multiple vaccines is becoming more widespread, travel bookings are seeing an uptick: Indagare has seen a steady increase in bookings since late January. The integrated travel and tourism marketing agency MMGY Global has even coined the term “Vaxication” to describe the first trip some will take once they have been immunized. As some airlines consider requiring vaccinations, along with verified testing, it’s clear that vaccination prior to traveling again, using PPE while traveling and testing before and after travel are likely to be the way forward for most travelers. 

A More Considered and Responsible Approach to Travel

The survey also revealed that travelers are now taking a more considered and responsible approach to travel generally. Many of those polled indicated that they would like to be more conscious about the environmental impact travel has on a destination they may be visiting and include a carbon-offsetting cost component in future trips. More than half of those surveyed also expressed a deeper desire to travel to destinations that need tourism dollars (54 percent) and those that were hardest hit as a result of Covid-19. In fact, the No. 1 concern—before “exposing others and loved ones” and “being exposed to covid”—was the impact of the pandemic on local tourism economies. More than one third (34 percent) of Indagare community respondents want to travel more than before specifically to support tourism and local economies after vaccines are widely distributed. One traveler commented about the importance of conscious travel: “Travel with new awareness. Meaningful trips. Things I really want to do. But that is the way I always travel.” Interestingly, travelers are also willing to go a little more off-the-beaten path and just over half (51 percent) are more likely to choose destinations that are more remote even after vaccine adoption.

The Meaning Behind Bucket List Travel 

Echoing the sentiment of seeking more meaningful travel experiences, 69 percent of those surveyed said they are more likely to take a Bucket List trip once the vaccine is more widespread. In fact, that is the No. 1 type of trip that will get travelers out on the road. Pent-up demand for these once-in-a-lifetime trips and more exotic destinations was also apparent, and given the added risk factor attached to travel, so is the yearning for a trip that is more meaningful and unique. One respondent wrote, “I'm not going to waste time on mediocre locations. There are many places that are extraordinary, and I don't want to miss the chance to see them ever again.” Another commented about considering “travel to more exotic locales, i.e. why wait anymore for bucket list locations—I might never get there otherwise.” One traveler voiced the desire to be more strategic about trip-planning in the aftermath of Covid, particular with family trips. “We plan our travel more carefully. We hope to map out our dream trips for our family for the next 10 years since we have lost one to two years of travel with the grandparents.” 

Home Away From Home

Some respondents indicated that in addition to being willing to go further afield, they also feel more comfortable renting a home or private villa for added privacy. More than half of those surveyed said that they are 54 percent more likely to rent a home than they were prior to coronavirus, preferring to“Stay at homes not hotels,” for added security and peace of mind. Half  of those polled (50 percent) were also interested in private perks as an Indagare membership benefit.Related: The Benefits of Going Private Our most recent Indagare Sentiment Survey has us feeling incredibly positive and proud, not only about the future of travel but of our Indagare community, who will undoubtedly lead the way back out into the world. Since lockdown, our members have already joined three Indagare Insider Journey trips to Africa, where they supported conservation and community efforts and were likely the first Americans to join an international small-group trip post-Covid. In all three trips, travelers were met with enormous gratitude from locals who rely on tourism and were able to demonstrate that safe and responsible international travel is possible—even though it has certainly been a tough time to be in the travel business. Recovery across the industry will not be immediate. It will continue to ebb and flow and it will take time. There are many silver linings and takeaways, however. Travelers (and Indagare members) who are opting to venture out are doing so more cautiously and responsibly than before and they are more convicted than ever about doing so in order to show support and sustain local economies and businesses. Despite the many challenges Covid has brought into all of our lives—those who were passionate about travel before seem to be doubling down on their resolve to get back out there when they feel safe doing so in its aftermath. All of this is proof that our mission at Indagare—to help people change their lives through travel—is as vital as ever. Contact Indagare, if you are considering traveling in the coming months or you are looking for intel and advice on destinations, we are here to help. We know the travel landscape is ever-shifting and navigating the new travel landscape is complicated. We continue to gather advice and intelligence from our network and will keep you informed about destinations and travel considerations, including insurance, entry requirements, medical evacuations and protocols. Since last March, we've successfully helped hundreds of members travel to over 40 countries. Our Trip Designers are here to advise on how to help you travel as safely, responsibly and meaningfully as possible—whenever you decide you are ready. About the Indagare February 2021 Travel Sentiment Survey: The 2021 Indagare Travel Sentiment Survey, a followup to Indagare’s May 2020 survey, was conducted online for three weeks through February 8, to examine travelers’ current attitudes about leisure travel during Covid. The survey contained 25 questions designed to identify their current health-safety concerns, domestic and international destinations of interest, the pent-up demand for future (post-vaccine) travel, along with trends in flying, travel insurance, family trips, going remote and much more. The majority of respondents in the Indagare survey (95 percent) were travelers between the ages of 25 and 74 and include members of the Indagare community (including its members, subscribers and social media followers). 

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