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Consumers optimistic about travel, but vaccine distribution will drive return of travel demand
By the American Hotel & Lodging Association
A new survey conducted by Morning Consult and commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) shows consumers are optimistic about traveling again in 2021, with 56% reporting they are likely to travel for vacation this year.
That represents a significant decline from pre-pandemic levels, when approximately 70% of Americans took a vacation in any given year, according to OmniTrak (TNS) data. Since the onset of the pandemic, just 21% of survey respondents reported traveling for vacation or leisure, and only 28% reported staying in hotel. Prior to the pandemic, 58% of survey respondents said they stayed in a hotel at least one night per year for leisure, and 21% stayed at least one night per year for work.
The survey also found that, while consumers remain optimistic about travel, consumer confidence about staying in hotels is tied to widespread distribution of the vaccine: 11% say they will feel comfortable staying in a hotel when vaccines are available to the general public; 20% when a majority of Americans have been vaccinated; and 17% when they are personally vaccinated.
The recovery of the travel industry is anticipated to take place in three phases: leisure travel, small and medium events, and group and business travel. While recovery will begin in 2021, full recovery is not expected until 2024.
The survey of 2,200 adults was conducted Jan. 7-9 by Morning Consult on behalf of AHLA. Key findings of the survey include the following:
√ 56% of Americans say they are likely to travel for leisure or vacation in 2021
√ 34% of adults are already comfortable staying in a hotel, while 48% say their comfort is tied in some way to vaccine distribution
√ Compared to last year, 36% of Americans expect to travel more for leisure in 2021, while 23% expect to travel less and 42% about the same
√ One in five Americans (19%) expect their next hotel stay to be between now and April, with another 24% expecting it sometime between May and August
“While consumers are optimistic about traveling in 2021 after nearly a year of self-distancing measures, we continue to face record devastation. COVID-19 has wiped out 10 years of hotel job growth,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “In the next COVID-19 relief package, the hotel industry needs support from Congress and the administration that will ultimately help small business hoteliers keep their doors open, and bring more employees back to work. Despite the challenges facing the hotel industry, hotels across the country are focused on creating an environment ready for guests when travel begins to return.”
While business travel itself will remain below 2019 levels for some time, business travelers express greater comfort in traveling for any reason compared to adults overall, and they are more likely to say they will travel more in 2021.
Leisure travel demand is projected to begin increasing in Q2-Q3 of 2021 as vaccine distribution increases across the country and consumers can connect with family and friends. In the year ahead, Americans say they are most likely to travel for a family event such as a wedding or family reunion (51% likely to travel), while many are likely to travel over summer holidays, led by the Fourth of July (33%) and Labor Day (28%).
While cleanliness has always ranked among the top factors when choosing a hotel, it has risen to the top in the wake of COVID-19. In a separate survey of travelers conducted by Ecolab in December 2020, 62% of consumers placed overall cleanliness in their top three factors when choosing a hotel – a 24% increase over pre-COVID preferences. Further, 53% of consumers said enhanced cleaning regimens will make them feel more comfortable staying at a hotel.
At the onset of the pandemic, the hotel industry acted quickly to enhance already rigorous cleaning and safety protocols to ensure the safety of employees and guests. AHLA’s “Safe Stay” initiative focuses on enhanced cleaning measures and safety guidelines that help the industry meet and exceed the new health and safety challenges created during the pandemic.
These findings were also outlined in “AHLA’s State of the Hotel Industry 2021,” which details the forecasted state of the hotel industry in 2021 and into the immediate future. The report examined the high-level economics of the hotel industry’s recovery, the specific impact on and eventual return of business travel, and consumer travel sentiments.
The American Hotel & Lodging Association is the sole national association representing all segments of the U.S. lodging industry. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., AHLA focuses on strategic advocacy, communications support and workforce development programs to move the industry forward. In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the hospitality industry was the first industry impacted and it will be among the last to recover. That is why AHLA is committed to promoting safe travel while also creating a standardized safety experience nationwide through the “Safe Stay” initiative. With an enhanced set of health and safety protocols designed to provide a safe and clean environment for all hotel guests and employees, hotels across America are ready to welcome back travelers when they are ready to travel. Learn more at www.ahla.com.