87% of US respondents in the latest travel industry survey in November said they are concerned about restrictions on socializing with friends and family. This is particularly significant on the eve of Thanksgiving, a celebration which many had hoped would spur domestic travel.
Domestic tourism has been referred to as the ‘lifeline’ for tourism recovery during COVID-19 and as Thanksgiving is now upon the US, this would have been thought of as a ‘light’ for the US tourism sector. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has advised against domestic travel during this period, and the latest consumer survey shows that this is feeding into consumer attitudes, with many travelers uncertain on their travel plans this year. Thanksgiving is therefore unlikely to offer a much-needed ‘lifeline’ for tourism related businesses.
The percentage of those who ‘strongly disagree’ that they will book a domestic trip this year has remained fairly constant across the 10-week consumer COVID-19 recovery surveys. Respondents who selected they will book a domestic trip this year, however has made a slight increase. In week 1 (10th -14th June) only 15% stated they would book a domestic trip in 2020 but by week 10 in early November, with Thanksgiving on the horizon, this increased to 21%. This still belies a lack of confidence.
42% of total domestic trips in the US were for ‘visiting friends and relatives’ (VFR) in 2019. Thanksgiving is one of the most popular times of travel for domestic tourism with 167 million trips taken in November 2019.
Although, as the country continues to hold its status as having the highest number of cases and deaths due to COVID-19, it is clear domestic demand remains significantly lower than in previous years, but some are more confident than others.
While there are clearly mixed responses in domestic travel preferences during this time, destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and tourism businesses should be forward looking.
VFR is a significant contributor to the US tourism sector and while many are not likely to travel for this period, there will be more pent-up demand when this pandemic eases and tourists opt to catch up with loved ones in a safer environment.