Traveler Sentiment & Influences: How We Feel About Travel Now

Given the rapidly evolving state of travel around the world, advertisers are struggling to stay informed and ahead of emerging consumer behavior and trends.

We’ve stayed focused on helping our advertising partners understand and navigate shifting travel shopper behaviors and identify areas of opportunity to reach customers. One of the primary ways we help advertisers stay informed is via data and insights; we combine 300 petabytes of exclusive Expedia Group global traveler intent and demand data from our  user research team with custom industry research, like our new Traveler Sentiment & Influences study released today at explore ’20.

Conducted in October 2020 by Northstar Research Partners, the study engaged 11,000 people across 11 countries: Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the UK, and the U.S. We examined how the pandemic has impacted travel attitudes and shopping behaviors. It has also helped us understand how travel shoppers are making destination, transportation, and accommodation decisions.  Below, I share some of the slides from our in-depth research. We will also share more findings from this research in the new year, so I encourage you to subscribe to our blog to get new research insights delivered to your inbox.

Traveler Sentiment and Influences 2020 2021 Overview Research Methodology

In short, our research revealed some good news: Though consumer confidence in travel varies by country and generation, 1 in 2 travelers feel optimistic—comfortable or even excited—about taking a trip in the next 12 months. The importance of hygiene measures, flexibility, and financial peace of mind is more universal: seventy five percent of travelers said measures such as mask enforcement, reduced capacity or contactless services, ​and flexibility (like easy refunds or cancellation policies​), will inform where they stay on their next trip.

Key Insights and Marketing Takeaways

  • Rejuvenate and Recharge: Pandemic fatigue is setting in and pent-up demand continues to grow as people seek leisure travel to rejuvenate and recharge. Inspire travelers who are still dreaming and engage those who may be ready to travel with content and messaging highlighting rest and relaxation.
  • Hygiene and Flexibility: Travelers want to minimize risk to their health and protect themselves and their loved ones from financial setbacks. Information on pandemic measures should be at the forefront of brand communications, supported by reservation flexibility or full refunds to provide travelers with financial peace of mind.
  • Reassuring Content: Use multiple channels—including news media, travel sites and advertising—to share reassuring content and imagery, such as messaging and imagery demonstrating social distancing or reduced capacity, contactless services, mask enforcement policies, and heighted hygiene measures.
Brazilian, Chinese, and Mexican travelers feel more positive about traveling in the next 12 months

Looking Back: Travel Impact

Globally, two-thirds of travelers cancelled a planned trip due to COVID-19 and only thirty three percent of travelers have taken a trip during the pandemic. Of those who took a trip, 8 in 10 traveled for rejuvenation–which our study defined as seeking a change of scenery or different weather, seeing family or friends, or celebrating an event.

Traveler Sentiment Study 2020 2021  two-thirds of travelers cancelled a planned trip due to COVID-19 and only thirty three percent of travelers have taken a trip during the pandemic

Looking Ahead: the Next 12 Months

Around the world, travelers said that they are more likely to take trips between April and September 2021. Brazilian, Chinese, and Mexican travelers show a higher likelihood to travel even earlier—between January and March 2021. Gen Z and Millennial travelers are 1.5x more likely than other generations to take a leisure trip by Q1.

Traveler Sentiment Study 2020 2021 Likelihood of traveling in 2021

Fifty-seven percent of travelers said they would be comfortable traveling if a vaccine is widely available, which is promising given that this sentiment was captured in October, prior to November and December’s positive vaccine news. Seven in 10 travelers want added flexibility, such as travel insurance and trip protection, full cancellations, and refunds on transportation and accommodations. Expedia.com’s  lodging data shows that travelers booked refundable rates 10% more often in 2020 than the year before—our research indicates this trend is likely here to stay. 

Traveler Sentiment Study 2020 2021 what would make travelers comfortable to travel again

Transportation & Accommodation Priorities

Travelers also want reassurances that travel providers are following and enforcing pandemic protocols. Mask use and enforcement (50%), cost (47%), and easy refunds or cancellation policies (45%) will be the leading factors in future transportation decisions, though the importance placed on each varies by mode of transportation. For future air travel, 6 in 10 travelers would be most comfortable traveling if social distancing measures are in place.

Traveler Sentiment Study 2020 2021 mask enforcement influencing factor in global travel decisions

Travelers will return to trusted accommodations like hotels, resorts, and vacation rentals post-pandemic, and younger generations will be at the forefront of driving demand.

Traveler Sentiment Study 2020 2021 hotel resorts and vacation rental recovery rates 2021

Travel Resources & Influences

Travelers are turning to online travel agencies for information and travel planning 24% more than pre-pandemic, while destination websites saw a 20% increase in use as a planning tool. All generations expect to increasingly look to news sources and media for travel information, however, post-pandemic, the Silent Generation will get travel information from news sources 42% more than pre-pandemic.

Pictures and informative messaging in travel advertising are 20% more influential than pre-pandemic, along with travel organizations and experts. This reflects a shift in traveler priorities—with hygiene measures and flexibility overtaking experiences and activities—and the increased importance of credible, up-to-date information from trusted sources.

Traveler Sentiment Study 2020 2021 Pictures Information reviews and media influence how people will make travel decisions

More Travel Marketing Insights

For further insights on traveler attitudes, motivations, and influences that will drive future travel decisions, download the full global Traveler Sentiment & Influences 2020-2021 study. Looking for more regional data and insights? Join us in January 2021 for our regional Insights Summits to get a closer look at traveler sentiment and new travel behaviors across North America, Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific.

Monya Mandich

Vice President, Media Solutions Marketing

Monya Mandich is the VP, Marketing of Expedia Group Media Solutions and oversees all integrated marketing and communications activities for the brand. In her role, she is responsible for raising awareness of digital media opportunities for partners across the Expedia Group suite of leading global travel brands. With nearly two decades of experience, she evangelizes a thought leadership approach both externally and internally centered on data-driven insights, which has resulted in travel and marketing industry recognition and accolades. Monya previously managed strategic partnership development, executing strategies for top-tier partnerships, maximizing traffic and revenue for Expedia.com. She started her career in the travel space at VacationSpot.com, where she ran the B2B marketing and customer acquisition efforts for the vacation rental booking site. Monya is on the board of directors for Destinations International and the U.S. Travel, and also participates on the advisory committee for U.S. Travel's Project: Time Off, which aims to shift thinking around the health, business and economic value of personal time off, Monya was also recognized as one of HSMAI’s Top 25 Most Extraordinary Minds in Sales and Marketing. She is a graduate of Western Washington University and lives in the Seattle area with her family.

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