US travelers plan to spend more on trips in 2022 but still anxious about coronavirus, surveys say
Even in the face of the unrelenting coronavirus and its mutations, a majority of Americans responding to recent surveys said they’re planning to travel this year, and are excited to get moving again.
Destination Analysts, a San Francisco-based travel research firm that tracks the industry nationwide, reported on Jan. 17 that nearly 80% of survey takers between Jan. 12–14 already have travel plans this year. The firm conducts its American Travel Trends & Sentiment survey of 1,200 people every other week.
Its most recent poll also found that 70% of respondents are eager to get away this year, and 58.2% reported they will make travel spending a priority over the next three months — a three-month high, according to the firm.
The findings of growing enthusiasm to travel, however, is not an indication that people are ready to abandon safety concerns, according to David Bratton, founder and managing director of Destination Analysts.
“I think that's an easy conclusion to draw, but I think it’s more complex than that,” Bratton said. “Throughout this whole nightmare of a pandemic, we've seen the clear majority of travelers want safety. They want destinations to be safe places for them to go and have fun. They want the businesses they're providing support to, to look after their health. And that hasn't gone away.”
To that end, the survey also found nearly 72% of respondents said at least one person they know has contracted COVID-19 in the last month, and nearly 30% stated the challenges of trying to get a COVID-19 test has stopped them from traveling in the past month.
Another study found similar sentiments among travelers.
On Jan. 11, Tripadvisor released a research paper called “Travel in 2022: A Look Ahead,” which surveyed thousands of adults in five countries between the ages of 18 and 75, including 2,191 people in the United States.
Tripadvisor, the Needham, Massachusetts-based online travel company, commissioned London-based global market research firm Ipsos MORI to study how consumers are planning to travel this year and beyond, and how their travel attitudes and behaviors have shifted compared to before the pandemic. The study was conducted late last year, Nov. 1–6.
Key findings show 71% of Americans are planning leisure trips this year, up 8% compared with 2019. In addition, according to Tripadvisor site behavioral data alone, Americans are expected to spend 29% more on their average trip than they did two years ago.
The report also found about three in 10 Americans (29%) who traveled for leisure in 2019 said it's more important now than before the pandemic to splurge on a big trip.
“Despite new variants of COVID-19, consumers across the globe still want to travel and explore. This is evident in our month-over-month search data which shows a consistent, healthy increase in page views post-holidays,” Kanika Soni, chief commercial officer, Tripadvisor Inc., stated in the release. “Travelers are quickly adapting to local public health conditions, with cleanliness and safety remaining important factors in their planning.”
Looking further at Destination Analysts’ mid-January survey, Bratton’s firm also found the majority of Americans planning to travel this year are most enthusiastic about taking road trips — something Visit California focused its marketing efforts on early in the pandemic.
In June 2020, as the Business Journal reported at the time, Visit California CEO Caroline Beteta stated: “Our research on how the pandemic is changing traveler behavior shows that people will want more control over their travel experiences, so we expect they’ll prefer getting behind the wheel of a car versus booking air travel.”
As evidence that the view hasn’t changed, Beteta noted earlier this month that “California Road Trip Republic” is among Visit California’s national ad campaigns slated to launch next month. The campaign is about “a sense of freedom, discovery and transformation through transportation,” according to Beteta.
That preference toward road trips also indicates people remain relatively anxious about flying, Bratton noted.
“We just haven't made much progress on air travel,” he said. “We've come a long way back, but we’re still 19% below where we were in 2019.”
So, what types of trips are people interested in taking this year?
In Destination Analysts’ survey taken Dec. 26–28 and released at the start of the new year on Jan. 3, nearly 75.8% of respondents said they will prioritize having fun, followed by relaxation (69.2%), finding happiness (64.1%) and escaping stress (60.9%).
The report noted that “for the majority of American travelers, the travel experiences they will highly prioritize are spending time with loved ones, enjoying nature, going to a new place they have not been before and getting away from crowds. In contrast, only 21.1% say they will prioritize staying close to home.”
Cheryl Sarfaty covers tourism, hospitality, health care and education. She previously worked for a Gannett daily newspaper in New Jersey and NJBIZ, the state’s business journal. Cheryl has freelanced for business journals in Sacramento, Silicon Valley, San Francisco and Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State University, Northridge. Reach her at email@example.com or 707-521-4259.