Brand USA, the destination marketing organization (DMO) for the United States, hosted a webinar on May 12 detailing recent statistics, survey results and more — all of which indicate that the U.S. travel industry is beginning its recovery process.
Though the event focused on conditions and consumer sentiment in key source markets for international travel to the U.S. — namely Mexico, Canada, Germany and the U.K. — speakers also presented some good news and useful information for travel advisors with U.S.-based clients and partners.
Positive Signs for the Travel Industry
Whether because of pandemic fatigue or the relative success of the vaccine rollout across the U.S., statistics cited by Brand USA show that Americans are becoming increasingly comfortable with traveling. Domestically, road trips remain a popular option (it was the most common method of travel last summer), although Americans are increasingly taking to the skies, with air passengers numbers routinely breaking pandemic-era records. On average between April 2020 and February 2021, 60% of vacationers intended to travel by car, and 37% by airplane. In April 2021, those numbers shifted to 53% by auto and 44% by plane — a good sign for longer-haul domestic travel.
Hotel room demand is still in the red, but steadily improving. In March 2021, demand was down 24.7% compared to March 2019, but the prior three months were down 29.9%. In April 2021, 43.3% of American households planned on taking a vacation in the next six months, representing a significant improvement from 34% in February. Travel spending is also up, with numbers from this March totaling $69.5 billion — the highest amount since the COVID-19 pandemic began to significantly impact the U.S. economy.
Changing Consumer Sentiments
Throughout the webinar, Brand USA also emphasized the importance of understanding consumer sentiment as travelers get back to exploring. The DMO highlighted statistics that show travelers’ increased trust in businesses over NGOs, government and the media, according to the 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer. Statistics from the Destination Analysts 2021 Study also illustrate that an increasing number of consumers rely on the opinions of influencers (28.4% of respondents), as well as online video content (28.3% of respondents) when looking for destination inspiration for future travels. The findings present an opportunity for travel agencies to become a trustworthy source of information for travelers and to interact with potential customers via social media.
Travelers are also becoming increasingly conscious consumers. According to data from American Express, 77% of travelers want to support small, local businesses while traveling; 72% are passionate about traveling to destinations to help boost the local economy; 69% are interested in visiting lesser-known destinations; and 69% want to choose airlines and hotels that value diversity and inclusion.
Travel Trade Outreach
A major component of Brand USA’s three-pronged approach to recovery is education (other elements include inspiring a sense of destination readiness and creating demand through storytelling and new partnerships). The DMO plans to increase outreach efforts with customized training videos for the travel trade and engaging training sessions that will be distributed via multiple channels, including the USA Discovery platform and the Global Marketplace, which was created late last year as a “a one-stop shop for U.S. travel partners and international audiences to interact.”
Brand USA will also continue to drum up interest in U.S. destinations by repurposing existing travel video content to showcase destinations with wide-open spaces and no crowds. This content will be available to Brand USA partners.