Study: Accurate, Timely Info Will Help Travel Recover From COVID-19

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A new travel survey by Omnitrak, a U.S. strategic research and branding firm that specializes in travel data and that has worked with the Hawaii Tourism Authority (HTA) and other large state tourism offices, delves into the impact of the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic on Americans’ future travel plans. Omnitrak conducted the survey from March 10 – 12 and polled 2,5050 adults (18 and over) who have traveled at least once in the past year. 

According to the report, while the COVID-19 (coronavirus) has had a dramatic impact on the travel plans of Americans, 49 percent of those who have traveled at least once in the past 12 months intend to do so again before the end of August. Fifty-one percent do not have current plans to travel during that period. 

More than a quarter, or 29 percent, have cancelled leisure travel and 12 percent have cancelled business travel since January 2020. However, for the period from March to August 2020, 8 percent have cancelled leisure trips and 6 percent have cancelled business trips because of the pandemic.

Other key findings from the survey include:

COVID-19 concerns have altered travel decisions unlike any other recent global event, Omnitrak said. During recent disease outbreaks, natural disasters and world events, including post-9/11, SARS, Ebola and plane crashes, travelers have remained resilient.

  • During recent disease outbreaks, including SARS and Ebola, 83 percent of U.S. travelers did not change their travel plans.
  • Previously, natural disasters/extreme weather had the greatest impact on travelers’ plans, with 33 percent altering plans and 67 percent proceeding unchanged. 

The top factor in U.S. travel decisions is advice from national health officials and scientists. National political leaders rank significantly lower. Nearly 6 in 10, or 59 percent, of travelers say that travel advice from national health officials and scientists, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), is the most important factor in deciding whether to cancel a trip.

  • Other key factors: The number of COVID-19 cases reported at the traveler’s destination at 57 percent; travel advice from a personal doctor at 50 percent; and travel advice from a state health official at 49 percent. An airline’s reputation for upholding health and safety standards came in at 35 percent.
  • Travel advice from a state governor is on par with information from national news media at 31 percent.
  • Travel advice from national political leaders is relatively low at 29 percent, on par with information from local news media.

U.S. travelers are not very satisfied with the timeliness or reliability of COVID-19 information currently available to them. Improving both promptness and reliability of information can play a key role in strengthening traveler confidence as the situation evolves, Omnitrak said.

  • On a scale of 1 (not at all satisfied) to10 (extremely satisfied), travelers rated the timeliness of pandemic information at a mean of 6.7 and reliability at a mean of 6.5.

“In my 30-plus years of leading Omnitrak, COVID-19 is the most significant global travel disruption the industry has ever experienced,” Patricia M. Loui, Omnitrak chairperson and chief executive officer, said, in a written statement. “As the pandemic will clearly affect U.S. travel sentiment for some time to come, it’s important that the travel industry help all Americans to make sound decisions based on current science-based public health information.” 

The $1.1 trillion U.S. travel industry is vital to the economy, accounting for 1 of every 10 U.S. jobs, according to the nonprofit U.S. Travel Association.

Chris Kam, Omnitrak’s president and chief operating officer, said that trustworthy public-health information would be key not just during the COVID-19 outbreak but in supporting travelers’ confidence as the industry works toward recovery in the future. 

“While we are in uncharted territory with the current pandemic, we do know that U.S. travelers have historically proven to be resilient in the face of natural disasters, 9/11, epidemics, terrorism and other major disruptions,” Kam said. “Accurate, timely information is one of the most important factors in helping travelers make the best choices for their business, leisure and family travel."

Omnitrak’s “Coronavirus & Travel” study was conducted from a professionally managed consumer panel via an online survey methodology using a sample of 2,505 U.S. adult travelers (age 18 and over) who have traveled at least once in the past 12 months. Surveys were fielded between March 10-12, 2020.

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