A New View on Leisure Travel in the Time of COVID-19

We are big believers in data and know that insights into traveler decisions and motivations are more critical for our advertising partners than ever before. Our media experts regularly harness billions of travel intent and booking data points to help our advertising partners connect with highly engaged travel shoppers across Expedia Group brands around the globe, including Expedia.com, Hotels.com, Vrbo, Wotif and many more. As the industry continues to combat the impacts of COVID-19, this ability to understand traveler intent and purchases, in real time, has never been more crucial.

To help our advertising partners understand the continually shifting travel shopper behaviors, we combine our exclusive Expedia Group data of what travelers are searching for and booking on our brands globally with the latest insights on the why behind these decisions from our user research team and custom industry studies.

Given how quickly the landscape is changing in the current crisis, we conducted a Traveler Sentiment Study in July with research experts dscout. We asked a panel of travelers in the U.S. as well as in Australia, Canada, France, Germany and the U.K. to tell us about their upcoming travel plans and explain what is driving their decisions when it comes to booking trips at this time. Respondents to the online survey were qualified as already having had a leisure trip planned and/or booked for June-December 2020. As well as detailed study responses to a number of questions, we were also able to see and hear from travelers through online video testimonials, helping uncover deeper insight into their attitudes and motivations.

Here is a snapshot of what we saw from the study, including a couple of the themes that bubbled up.


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Health and hygiene information is key

As travel shoppers evaluate their destination, accommodation, and transportation options, around 9 in 10 of them want to see information on health and cleanliness before booking. Above all else, travelers want to be reassured that it is safe for them to travel and they want to see relevant information and messaging from travel brands. We recommend that destinations, lodging and transportation advertising partners use marketing messages and content to explicitly outline the health measures they are taking.

Domestic car trips are trending

With only 26% of travelers comfortable traveling by plane one month from now, destinations should target drive markets to attract potential visitors. Proactively sharing information on open businesses, off-the-beaten-path activities, socially distanced experiences, and more will help would-be visitors get inspired and plan their trip. The likelihood of visitors renting a car for a leisure trip is three times higher than pre-COVID levels, representing a huge opportunity for rental companies.

DScout-Data-Infographic-Section-2download the full infographic

Vacation rentals prove popular

Travelers are most comfortable staying in a vacation rental—chain hotels and resorts come in a close second during the COVID-19 crisis. Lodging providers can attract potential guests by leading with their flexible cancellation policies and detailed health and safety information. Hotels and resorts can also share information on nearby activities that are open for business and incorporate special deals to help make the booking decision even easier.

Travelers turning to OTAs throughout the purchase journey

Along with insights into destination, accommodation, and travel preferences, the research shows travelers are turning to a variety of resources for trip inspiration, planning, and booking right now, including online travel agencies (OTAs). Nearly half of respondents turn to an OTA for inspiration, 73% for planning and 93% would use an OTA to book travel in this environment, illustrating an opportunity for travel brands to drive awareness and demand with a highly qualified audience.


The findings from this study, combined with our Expedia Group data, provides us with current insights into how travelers are thinking about travel in the time of COVID-19. In the coming weeks we’ll be diving deeper into topics like traveler accommodation preferences, how transport choices get made, and specific health and safety preferences

It’s insights like these will ultimately help our partners navigate this rapidly changing landscape and ensure that all planned marketing activity hits the right travelers, with the right messages, when the time is right. We believe that by learning more about what is driving travel decisions, we can boost recovery efforts and get travelers traveling again.

We will share more insights from this study and video testimonials in the coming weeks. If you’d like to learn more about influences and motivations of travelers in the time of COVID-19, get in touch with us or listen to our on demand webinar series.