Virtuoso: How COVID-19 Is Changing Travel Trends in 2020

woman with luggage at airport
(Nutthaseth Vanchaichana/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images) Photo by Nutthaseth Vanchaichana/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Under normal circumstances, 5,000-plus travel industry members—advisors, suppliers and media—would be congregating in Las Vegas for Virtuoso Travel Week right now. In lieu of an in-person event, the luxury travel network is hosting its event in a virtual format this year—a “Virtualoso,” as coined by Virtuoso SVP, Strategy David Kolner. During the Opening Ceremony, Kolner shared insights from Virtuoso advisors and its database to see how COVID-19 is changing travel habits.

Here’s what we learned:

Younger people are more willing to travel right now. More than eight in 10 (84.2 percent) of 18- to 25-year-olds say they are ready to travel again. This was followed by 62.7 percent of 26- to 40-year-olds; 62.3 percent of 41- to 55-year-olds; 36.2 percent of 56- to 76-year-olds; and 27.2 percent of those who are 77 and older. To that same end, 53.7 percent of those aged 55 to 75 say they are not ready to travel; 63.4 percent of 77-plus-year-olds are not ready.

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Of those who are traveling, they are staying closer to hotel. Using Virtuoso’s hotel database, it found that 70 percent of hotel bookings in Q2 2020 were within 1,500 miles of home. This number was at 58 percent for the same period in 2020. Booking windows are also much shorter, with 43 percent of hotel stays booked within just two weeks of their stay. For Q2 2019, this number was just 37 percent. Looking at festive bookings, this July only had 13 percent of the bookings that July 2019 had.

While nearly half of the clients surveyed by Virtuoso (47 percent) say they don’t plan to travel during festive this year—and usually don’t—nearly one-quarter (22 percent) are considering booking festive travel but are waiting to see how conditions evolve. Fifteen percent have already booked holiday travel. Sixteen percent, while they typically would travel at this time, will not in 2020. Interestingly, 59 percent say they would take an international flight for festive travel. One-quarter (23 percent) will take a nonstop domestic flight. Fifteen percent will drive.

Similarly, when it comes to their next trip, clients surveyed by Virtuoso say a domestic destination or a short flight away (32.5 percent) is most likely. This was followed by an international destination (30.3 percent); a multi-day road trip (23.4 percent); and a day trip within a couple hours of home (13.8 percent).

Virtuoso also dug into the attributes that clients were seeking. (On Virtuoso’s website, hotels are able to select a number of attributes that best identify themselves.) Among the most popular attributes for Q2 2020 were wellness, local immersion, beach, adventure, seclusion and golf. Wellness and Local immersion were both popular in 2019, along with landmarks and city life; however, the latter two have seen a large drop in bookings. (Although it’s important to note that many city hotels closed earlier and longer than other options.) This is a great opportunity to learn about your clients’ passion points, says Kolner.

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