Our 2022 Travel Sentiment Survey polled 1,181 luxury travelers (members of the Indagare community) about their opinions on the current travel landscape: How has Covid influenced their decision-making around travel? Where have they traveled to and how did their experiences compare to pre-Covid times? What destinations are they dreaming about most or booking in 2022? We also looked at how they are feeling about hotel availability and quality of service, airport and flying experiences, Covid protocols, along with the key factors influencing their considerations around travel now. The highlights from their answers are all here and we’re excited to share them, along with the trends we’re tracking.
Although travelers were still contending with the hassles of canceling travel plans, Covid testing and ever changing protocols, the uptick in Covid vaccinations and booster rates among Americans in 2021 allowed travelers to feel more confident about getting back out into the world. The welcome news from our 2022 survey is that our community is definitely traveling again. In fact, nearly 90 percent of those surveyed by Indagare in our recent poll traveled in 2021. Of those who did, 42 percent traveled both domestically and internationally. While Omicron arrived just in time to impact holiday travel plans, there were also some positive indicators in luxury travel in comparison to the previous year. In our 2020 survey, nearly one third of Indagare community members surveyed said they were not traveling because of Covid. Of those in our survey who traveled this year, 37 percent said they would not cancel their trips unless Omicron or Covid directly impacted their plans.
An aspect of travel that did not change, however: Half of those surveyed (50 percent) said the number one pain point from travel was all of the Covid requirements and precautions. Respondents mentioned Covid testing, extra paperwork and mask mandates as major detractors (“the hassle of it all created an added layer of stress,” explained one traveler). Some 15 percent of travelers still cited generalized Covid fears—down significantly from the almost 40 percent of travelers who expressed similar concerns in 2020. One traveler noted the frustration around the need for “contingency planning (knowing and planning that things would most likely not go as planned, and being okay with that) and having to constantly do risk assessments of my surroundings” rather than just enjoying them. Another traveler noted that Covid was still causing anxiety: “The fear of being stuck somewhere or not being allowed in a country if we had not downloaded something correctly” was still an issue. “It was the first time in 50 years that I was anxious traveling,” said another. Others indicated that they were also still unable to travel because they were in a high-risk category or because a child or family member could not be vaccinated: “We didn’t fly until our youngest was vaccinated,” explained one respondent. “We didn’t want to go to crowded areas.” Whether it was “the possibility of becoming ill with Covid just before a trip,” according to one traveler, or “a nagging sensation of possibly contracting Covid and having to isolate or quarantine,” noted by others, Covid remained a factor for travelers.
What was the least satisfying aspect of their travel experience in the past year of those polled? At the top of the list: airports and flights. In fact, 55 percent believe their experience in this area was worse than before the pandemic. Experiences on the ground at the airport were characterized as worse than being on a plane by numerous travelers, thanks to overcrowded airports and terminal buses and non-mask-wearing travelers; some mentioned frequent flight changes as a major issue. Handling the unexpected was also mentioned as a stressor: “The stress of the unpredictable delay or cancellation,” said one traveler, “overall just the uncertainty.” Or “being faced with constant unknowns and changing parameters.” Another called out the “cost and availability of flights” as being a significant source of frustration, along with airlines giving passengers only credits for future travel rather than refunds.
There were a few bright spots, though: Perhaps not surprisingly, for luxury travelers, the most satisfying travel experience of all was private villas. Of those who booked a villa in the past year, 63 percent reported they were highly satisfied with their experience. When it came to hotels, the reviews were mixed: Roughly half (49 percent) of those polled said their hotel stays were the same as before Covid, with 41 percent saying their experience was not as good. Some went so far as to attribute the main reason for the decline to poor service, saying it was the direct result of decreased staffing or untrained staffers due to Covid.
Interestingly, one third of those polled said that the average amount of time spent on a trip was four to six nights, while a little over one quarter (26 percent) said seven to nine nights. Nearly half of those responding (48 percent) reported that the amount of time they spent on a trip was the “same as before” the pandemic.
Nearly one in four travelers (23 percent) surveyed cited “Change of Scenery” as the aspect of travel they most enjoyed in 2021. This included “seeing new places and returning to some old favorites,” according to one traveler, and “the ability to be in a new space, experience life in a new place and give my children outdoor adventures,” according to another. One exuberant traveler said: “Being away! Enjoying freedom!” was the best part. So where were they enjoying this renewed sense of freedom? Almost 90 percent of those polled traveled within the U.S. in the past year. The top five U.S. destinations included Florida, California, New York, Colorado and Massachusetts. And 40 percent of those responding traveled to Europe; France edged out Italy and Spain, followed by Greece and Germany. Additionally, 27 percent of those surveyed traveled to Mexico, and the Caribbean was not far behind at 23 percent.
At the time of the survey, 78 percent of respondents already have a trip planned for 2022. As expected, the U.S. and Europe topped the list of destinations they were most interested in going to (69 percent and 63 percent respectively), followed by Mexico (26 percent) and the Caribbean (23 percent). When it comes to where they plan on going in 2022, Indagare travelers named California, Florida, New York, Colorado and Texas. In Europe: Italy, France, Spain, the United Kingdom and Greece made the top five. Mexico, Caribbean and Canada were also popular choices overall, behind the U.S. and Europe.
Additionally, of those surveyed, 55 percent said Trips with Family Members were at the top of the list of their main motivations for travel now, followed closely by Bucket List Trips, at 45 percent. One traveler cited a need “to feel connection, freedom,” another said they wanted to feel that “Collective effervescence” that travel provides. Still another had this to say: “Life is short. I want to see my friends and to explore new places and experience different things, because Covid and other issues have taught me not to take life for granted.” A similar sentiment clearly rang true for many of our respondents: Those polled said they were also interested or very interested in Wish List Trips (79 percent), Family Trips (75 percent) and Shorter Weekend Getaways (75 percent).
So how are attitudes about investing in travel changing this year? Of those surveyed, 58 percent said they plan to spend more on their overall travel budget. Our survey revealed that 54 percent expect to travel around the same amount as before Covid, while 40 percent intend to travel longer. Drilling down further, 47 percent say they plan to spend more on hotels and 46 percent will spend more on airfare. When it comes to hotels, 68 percent currently perceive hotel availability as reasonable right now or around what they had expected. Some voiced feelings of discontent around pricing and have noticed that luxury hotels seem considerably costlier and that staffing has been an issue. Hotels are “available, but surprisingly more expensive!” said one traveler. Said another: “Availability might be there, but trained staff is not.” More than half of travelers surveyed (54 percent) intend to spend the same amount or more on restaurants, while 43 percent plan to spend the same amount on special experiences when they travel.
What’s impacting their decision-making around travel plans for 2022 most? One third (33 percent) of those surveyed voiced that they were extremely concerned about the cost and hassle of last-minute cancellations and that Covid-planning and uncertainty remained among the biggest obstacles to travel (58 percent). But we’re happy to report that the luxury travelers we polled indicated they were both “cautiously optimistic” and “optimistically cautious” about travel for 2022 compared to 2021.“Excited,” “hopeful” and “ready” were the top three words they used to describe how they feel about travel for 2022. One traveler added that a new aspiration is to “achieve the goal of visiting all countries in the world—155 down, 40 to go!” Another’s was “Seeing all the places I’ve been dreaming about all my life.” Two of our other favorites: “Nothing stops me!” and “Pack my bags!”
Ultimately, after combing through all of the data, the 2022 Indagare Sentiment Survey—and seeing mask mandates gradually lifting across states with declining cases and hospitalizations—we’re forecasting a positive outlook for the future of travel. The Indagare community’s responses are both heartening and promising. We know there will continue to be challenges, and as Covid has taught us well, they will ebb and flow. Based on the sentiment survey and what we are seeing in terms of bookings for 2022 thus far—custom bookings are on par with 2019 and our Insider Journeys have never been more popular—we believe that our mission and our purpose have never been more vital. As we see the positive outcomes derived from cultural exchange around the world right now, even in spite of unprecedented challenges, we remain more committed than ever to inspiring and empowering people to change their lives—and the world—through travel. And we are here to guide you through ever-shifting experiences, guidelines, protocols and to answer questions, when you need our advice for your travels.
Contact Indagare or your Trip Designer, if you are considering traveling in the coming months or you are looking for intel and advice on destinations. We know travel is complicated and we’re here to help, which is why we gather advice and the most relevant information to keep you informed about destinations and travel considerations, including insurance, entry requirements, health and safety recommendations. Since March 2020, 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 choose.
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