New Survey Shows a Sign of Hope for the Return of Travel

Over the next six weeks, nearly half of U.S. travelers have plans for their first trip since the COVID-19 pandemic began keeping them at home.

Author: David McMillin       

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Magic Kingdom Park (pictured) is expected to open July 11 as part of a phased reopening of Walt Disney World Resort theme parks in Lake Buena Vista, Florida. (Matt Stroshane)

Grounded flights and empty hotel rooms have been wreaking havoc on the economy for the past three months, but the latest edition of the Longwoods International COVID-19 and Travel Sentiment Study shows a glimmer of hope for travel: 48 percent of U.S. travelers are gearing up for their first trip since the coronavirus crisis grounded them at home. Those journeys will take place between Memorial Day and the July 4th holiday weekend, and initially, the majority of those travelers are taking to the open highway than the friendly skies. The most popular trip option is a car trip to visit family and friends less than 200 miles away, according to the survey from the tourism market research firm.

“Perhaps driven by the reopening happening in states and cities around the country, many Americans are planning to get back on the road in early summer,” Amir Eylon, president and CEO of Longwoods International, said in a press release. “Encouragingly, we’re seeing a slow but steady decline in the impact of the pandemic on longer-term future travel plans.”

The study, which has surveyed a random sample of 1,000 adults each week since March11, found that the coronavirus will greatly impact travel decisions for 53 percent of respondents over the next six months. However, that is a 14-point decline from its high on March 26. While 45 percent of respondents have canceled trips completely, others have made adjustments to feel more comfortable: 27 percent changed destinations to drive instead of fly, and 10 percent abandoned international plans in favor of domestic itineraries.

In addition to positive signals from consumers, businesses are making strides toward starting the recovery process. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is aiming to welcome visitors again by June 15, but the historical experience will include digital tickets, pre-registered time slots, face masks, temperature checks, and one-way museum traffic. Disney World is aiming to launch a phased reopening on July 11, which will include face mask requirements, temperature screenings, and reduced crowds. Also in Orlando — and closer to the business events industry — the Orange County Convention Center will welcome the Amateur Athletic Union in mid-July for the organization’s 47th junior national volleyball championships.

As more Americans start to open up to the possibilities of leaving home, what will their accommodations look like? Hilton President and CEO Chris Nassetta shared his thoughts on the future of the guest experience.

David McMillin is an associate editor at Convene.

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