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Summer Travel Demand Heats Up

5 MINUTE READ | May 19, 2021

Summer Travel Demand Heats Up

With the push to get 70% of Americans at least one dose of vaccine by July 4, temperatures warming up throughout the country, and COVID-19 restrictions easing day by day, millions of Americans are ready to hit the roads and the skies en masse this summer. America’s re-opening has ignited a surge in demand for campsites, Airbnbs, rental cars, and flights as summer travel heats up. People are ready to reunite with family, to pull back from a year of virtual work and school, and to recover from cabin fever, making summer travel the hot trend every marketer should be paying close attention to.

The latest: 37 million people are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend, and the latest CDC guidance says fully vaccinated people no longer need to wear a mask indoors in most places. 

More than half of all U.S. adults have received at least one vaccination, with over 41 percent of U.S. adults now fully vaccinated against the coronavirus. In recent days, the FDA expanded emergency use authorization for Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children 12 to 15 years old, paving the way for even more American families to return to more normal activities. 

As updated guidance on protocols and recommendations roll out, mid-July remains the target for reopening. In April, the CDC rolled out updated recommendations that fully vaccinated Americans can travel domestically and internationally without needing a negative COVID-19 test or self-quarantine upon their arrival or return. And just last week, the CDC lifted mask guidelines for vaccinated adults. While it’s still recommended for people to wear a mask and follow public health precautions when traveling, the updated CDC guidelines serve as a major incentive for Americans to continue to get vaccinated.

“As more people get the COVID-19 vaccine and consumer confidence grows, Americans are demonstrating a strong desire to travel this Memorial Day,” said Paula Twidale, the senior vice president for AAA Travel.

Related: European countries are set to re-open for international travelers who are fully vaccinated ahead of the summer travel season. 

According to The New York Times, travel across the U.S. has been on the rise since spring, with travel experts predicting that domestic travel will increase within five percent of pre-pandemic summer travel levels this summer. 

Data sourced from Foursquare

Analyst Brian Franklin at Koddi, the leading provider of adtech optimization and media management software and services for the travel industry, noted in recent research that U.S. states with a higher percentage of the population being fully vaccinated are seeing higher rates of hotel search demand and room bookings, according to internal data.

4/21/21 – 5/4/21 vs. 4/07/21 – 4/20/21

Despite this, hotels in rural areas such as Wyoming continue to experience increasingly high hotel demand amid low vaccination rates. This trend is likely due to travelers seeking remote destinations and is sure to continue as people look for safe escapes in the great outdoors, such as National Parks. 

Nearly half of all U.S. adults report that they are comfortable traveling again, and more than a third of all U.S. adults are planning to travel for a vacation within the next six months, according to a Google report created in partnership with Civic Science. Google also estimates that 50 percent of people plan to spend more than $1,000 on their next vacation, with many Americans booking travel further out than seen in previous months of the pandemic, implying that people are eager to travel and spend big this summer. Summer road trips and staycations are also expected to be popular this summer as lodging accommodations and hotel booking trends recover to pre-pandemic levels faster than air travel ticket sales and TSA screening data.

Pinterest shared that travel searches have increased by 60 percent year-over-year as Americans turn to the social platform for travel and destination inspiration. Foursquare reports that foot traffic and interest in rural travel destinations, as well as those featuring outdoor activities and hiking trails, have increased substantially in recent weeks

  • Policymakers continue to discuss the legitimacy (and legality) of vaccination passports and vaccinated-only travel or entertainment venue policies, a decision that would dramatically impact the long-term recovery of the travel industry. 

  • Coronavirus variants and regional outbreaks such as the one currently taking place in India may impede the recovery of international travel

  • Some Mediterranean cruises have restarted operations, though the trips are only open to local residents. 

Looking ahead, marketers should consider how to reach and resonate with travelers regionally and nationally as they return to the roads and the skies for the first time in over a year, especially while international travel remains limited. As Americans ease back into traveling, brands should look for ways to make their experiences convenient, safe, repeatable, and enjoyable, using this time as an opportunity to drive loyalty and capture both short- and long-term repeat customers. 

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With loyalty programs and guest expectations in flux, there are new opportunities to create brand affinity and attract audiences that may not have considered a more regional destination pre-pandemic. As we head into Memorial Day travel, and with our mask-wearing days moving behind us, these emerging trends around regional travel, outdoor adventures, and staycations are likely to stick around for the remainder of the year. Brands that take care to nurture new habits and positive traveler experiences can set themselves up for future growth and opportunity in the weeks and months ahead.


Posted by Stephanie Dworak