On Monday, the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) shared the findings of a recent survey in which two-third of its active members said they are confident or highly confident that guest bookings will increase in 2021.
In the forecast, Italy was the top on the list in regard to destinations where travelers are currently booking. Ireland, Germany, Greece and the U.K. were all among the top picks, showing that Europe is top of mind among those booking travel. In the U.S., states that allowed for more outdoor adventure or activities—Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Utah and Wyoming—were the most popular.
In all, nearly two thirds (65 percent) of current active member traveler bookings are to “international” destinations, the remaining 35 percent of traveler bookings are to North America (U.S., Canada and Mexico). In the May survey, 80 percent of current membership bookings were to international destinations, with 20 percent of bookings in North America.
USTOA active members plan to take a destination-by-destination approach to resuming operations around the world. “What we are seeing from this survey is an overall shift in optimism for several international destinations from a first quarter 2021 restart of operations to the second quarter of 2021,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO of USTOA.
USTOA asked when active members anticipate restarting operations in destinations around the world; the results are as follows:
- Africa: A quarter (28 percent) of members anticipate a first quarter 2021 return to the region, while another quarter (28 percent) say second quarter 2021. When USTOA asked in August, 43 percent of responding members were anticipating a first quarter 2021 return.
- Antarctica: Almost half of responding active members do not see returning to Antarctica until the fourth quarter of 2021. According to the survey conducted in August, 42 percent were projecting to return between first and second quarter of 2021.
- Asia: Roughly 40 percent of respondents anticipate resuming operations in Asia in the second quarter of 2021, while one-quarter (25 percent) say first quarter 2021. This shows a shift from the previous USTOA survey in August where 38 percent of members anticipated a first quarter 2021 return and 22 percent reported a second quarter 2021 restart.
- Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands: Half (50 percent) of USTOA active members are looking at the second half of 2021 to return to Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands. In August, two-thirds (63 percent) were anticipating a restart to this region between the second quarter and third quarter of next year.
- Canada: The majority of respondents, at 60 percent, anticipate resuming operations in Canada in the second quarter of 2021, showing a 22 percent increase for Q2 2021 from the August survey.
- Central America: Three in 10 respondents (29 percent) anticipate a second quarter 2021 return to the region, while one-quarter (23 percent) are planning to resume travel in Central America in the first quarter of 2021. Last survey, half (52 percent) were looking at restarting operations in Central America in the first quarter.
- Europe: Half (50 percent) of members anticipate returning to Europe in the second quarter of next year. In August, the first quarter of 2021 was the most selected response at 38 percent, reinforcing another cautiously optimistic shift to second quarter 2021.
- Mexico: One-quarter (24 percent) of respondents anticipate a second quarter return to Mexico, while another 19 percent project a first quarter 2021 operational restart. A third (32 percent) of respondents in the August survey were projecting a first quarter 2021 return to the region, a 13 percent decrease in optimism for a beginning of 2021 restart.
- Middle East: First quarter 2021 was the most selected response for resuming operations in the Middle East by one-third (33 percent) of active members.
- South America: Three in 10 survey respondents (30 percent) anticipate resuming operations in South America in the second quarter of 2021; while another 29 percent project a third quarter 2021 return. In the previous survey, almost half (44 percent) of the responding active members were anticipating the first quarter of 2021.
- United States: The United States has come back first with 20 percent of active members who have already started operating domestically at the time of the survey, while another quarter (28 percent) plan to be operating in the US by the end of the year.
This survey was completed on October 29, 2020. Tour operators responding resemble the following break-down of travel services: escorted/guided tours 71 percent; FIT packages 57 percent; custom packages 53 percent; student travel 18 percent; and cruises 41 percent.