MMGY Global has been tracking the impact of COVID-19 on U.S. traveler sentiment and behaviors since this past March and it has some encouraging news for the travel industry heading into the holiday season: The latest findings from MMGY Travel Intelligence's Travel Intentions Pulse Survey (TIPS) and MMGY Global’s Travel Safety Barometer show increasing confidence in the safety of domestic and international travel, cruising, dining and entertainment and lodging.
For the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Domestic Travel Safety Barometer score rose above 50, indicating travelers are increasingly confident about the idea of traveling. The barometer, which measures perceptions of safety on a scale of 0 (extremely unsafe) to 100 (extremely safe), rose to 52, which is 22 points higher than it was in April. Wave IX of the TIPS survey, conducted in late September, also found that 46 percent of respondents said they are likely to take a domestic leisure trip in the next six months. (This breaks down to 20 percent each expecting to take a tip within the next 30 days or within three months and 27 percent planning to do so in the next six months.)
The International Travel Safety Barometer increased, as well, jumping 6 points to 38 in October. With that said, just 25 percent of TIPS respondents said they are likely to take an international leisure trip during the next six months.
For the past several survey waves, the Cruise Travel Safety Barometer has been stuck in the low- to mid-20s, a score that has consistently ranked at the bottom of all travel categories for safety. Between September and October, however, the score increased by 7 points, rising from 24 to 31. While the industry is clearly a long way from where it needs to go to affect cruise bookings, especially from new cruisers, it is a welcome signal that travelers may finally be getting more comfortable setting sail. (The previous high was 27, back in early July.)
The TIPS survey also found travelers to be more assured about participating in all forms of dining and entertainment activities. Outdoor travel experiences continue to be perceived as safer than indoor experiences, with travelers feeling safest going to a state/national park and to the beach (a 62 and 56 rating, respectively). These activities’ respective Barometer scores hit record highs in October. Attending a sporting event, visiting a bar or restaurant, going to a theme park and attending a theatrical performance or movie all have a score of 47 or lower.
Getting people traveling again is a complex puzzle for the industry to solve, and research shows that even when a vaccine becomes available, travelers aren’t necessarily rushing out to get it. The TIPS survey has found that the availability of a vaccine would have the greatest impact on respondents’ decisions about future travel; however, consent to receiving the vaccine remains problematic. Half of respondents (49 percent) would wait at least a few months to get it, while 11 percent state they would not consent to being vaccinated at all.
Overall, concern about contracting the virus has decrease since August. In March, 32 percent of respondents said they were “extremely worried” about catching COVID-19; in August, that number was still at 31 percent. For September, that number dropped to 26 percent.
MMGY Travel Intelligence’s Travel Intentions Pulse Survey is conducted monthly among 1,200 U.S. residents who have taken an overnight trip for either business or leisure in the past 12 months. Wave IX of the survey was conducted Sept. 21–28, 2020, and Wave VIII was conducted August 21–31, 2020. MMGY Global’s Travel Safety Barometer is culled monthly from the Travel Intentions Pulse Survey, providing a comprehensive picture about how safe Americans think it is to travel.