A new survey from MMGY is giving the travel industry more good news.
MMGY Travel Intelligence, MMGY Global's research and insights division, released the 2021 “Spring Edition” of its Portrait of American Travelers survey. The findings indicate unprecedented optimism from leisure travelers in advance of the summer travel season.
The Traveler Sentiment Index (TSI) rose to 119 (pre-pandemic levels), affirming that U.S. adults are thinking much more positively about travel than they were throughout this past year.
“It has been a devastating year for the travel industry, but companies have remained incredibly resilient and steadfast in their commitment to meeting travelers’ needs and concerns,” said Chris Davidson, executive vice president of MMGY Travel Intelligence. “The results from the study show that we are already in the midst of an impressive rebound, and travel companies should leverage these insights and use them to guide their strategies in the months ahead.”
1. Domestic travel will remain the top preference.
The top states of interest among U.S. travelers over the next two years are Hawaii (64%), Florida (62%), California (53%), Colorado (50%), Alaska (49%), and New York (49%).
Some destinations – Portland, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. – have experienced large decreases in interest, which is likely the result of extensive political and social unrest that occurred in these destinations throughout the past year, MMGY said.
While there is some interest in international destinations, it remains relatively low with only 19% of leisure travelers indicating that they are likely to take an international trip in the next six months – down from 24% in January 2020.
2. Road trips continue to be the most likely form of near-term vacation travel.
Three in five U.S. adults (62%) expect to take at least one leisure vacation during the next six months with the preferred mode of transportation being a personal car, while two in five (38%) said they will take a domestic flight. Looking further out to the next 12 months, 81% of U.S. adults expect to take at least one trip.
3. Leisure travel spending over the next 12 months increases with age.
Active leisure travelers – those who intend to travel within the next 12 months – expect to take 3.7 overnight leisure trips this year and spend an average of $2,415 on those trips. Gen Xers and Boomers intend to take fewer trips than Gen Zs and Millennials, but these seasoned travelers intend to spend more overall. This difference in spending expectations is likely because Boomers tend to have more available time for travel, more discretionary income, and they’re the generation that’s first in line for COVID-19 vaccinations, MMGY said.
4. There’s an increasing focus on the impact of travel.
Fifteen percent of active leisure travelers indicate a travel service provider’s focus on sustainability and environmental considerations greatly impacts their travel decision-making. This sentiment is more evident among younger travelers who showed greater willingness to pay more for travel brands that demonstrate environmental responsibility than their older counterparts. Though the intent to spend more with travel companies that demonstrate environmental responsibility declines the older traveler segment, 83% of active leisure travelers overall indicate they are open to changing some aspect of their travel behavior to reduce their impact on the environment. For example, visiting destinations in the off-season to reduce overcrowding and using less single-use plastics while traveling appear to be a change most are willing to make.
5. Weekend leisure travel demand drives fare and rate strength.
While corporate business travel demand has historically driven fare and rate strength, MMGY Global's CEO Clayton Reid foresees a “historic shift in this dynamic ahead.” The next six months, “will see a unique environment whereby weekend leisure travel demand is so significant that it pushes leisure demand to weekdays, thereby displacing traditional corporate travel.” Calling this repositioning “reverse-compression,” Reid expects that “trip volume will not only be led by leisure demand but that fare and rate strength will also come first from consumers and second from business, even in market environments and periods where that just doesn't happen.”