After a one-year hiatus due to COVID-19, the summer travel season is back. According to Deloitte’s new report, “Keen But Cautious: U.S. Travel in COVID’s Second Summer,” Americans of all ages and income levels are ready to get away and are making travel plans. The study is based on a survey of more than 2,000 Americans fielded during the week of April 17–24, who expect to take a trip that includes a flight and/or a stay in paid lodging between Memorial Day and the end of September. The responses focus on the longest trip these travelers plan to take and underscores new optimism for the travel industry, despite continued health considerations.
More than a year into the pandemic, there is optimism for the travel industry. Four in 10 Americans plan to take at least one vacation this summer, a percentage similar to pre-pandemic summer travel of 2019. A desire for health safety continues to weigh on travelers more so than finances. With that said, more than 60 percent of travelers will spend about the same on their summer trips compared to 2019; only 13 percent will spend significantly less. Over half of work from home travelers will be adding three or more days to their trips. Work from home travelers are twice as likely as other travelers to increase trip budgets over 2019.
Travel Spend is on the Rise
While many Americans are ready for a summer vacation, lingering health concerns continue to impact travel decisions. According to Deloitte’s “Global State of the Consumer Tracker,” COVID-19 remains a leading driver of anxiety even as its lead over financial stress continues to wane. As a result, travelers are incorporating criteria into their travel plans that they would not have considered prior to the pandemic. And for those not traveling, health concerns (41 percent) are a bigger reason than financial concerns (30 percent) to stay home this summer.
In addition, nearly three-quarters of Americans (71 percent) planning to travel expect at least half of their party to be vaccinated at the time of their trip. While uncertainty around vaccine penetration and infection rates, as well as local attraction capacity and quarantine mandates, is affecting travel plans, more than a quarter of travelers (27 percent) plan to visit a city on their summer vacation. Beaches lead all destinations (34 percent), followed by the “great outdoors” (18 percent).
Even better news is that vacation spending is rebounding, with trip budgets similar to summer 2019. For those willing to spend more than two years ago, middle- to higher-income households are re-prioritizing experiences (35 percent), just as lower-income Americans are redirecting savings for travel (41 percent).
Demand for Air Travel Soars
While concerns about air travel persisted throughout the pandemic, demand for flights is now on the rise. More than half (55 percent) of American travelers say their longest trip this summer will include a flight. Amid Transportation Safety Administration reports of increased passenger volume, consumers are also considering new factors for mitigating the health and financial risks of flying.
Most domestic flyers will opt for a nonstop flight. (Only 11 percent of passengers surveyed are considering a domestic itinerary that includes at least one connection, most likely to reduce exposure to airport crowds.) More than one in four (27 percent) respondents are planning to take an international flight this summer, underscoring the lure of global destinations despite continued health concerns.
Private Rentals Surge
While hotels are the leading form of lodging for most travelers, the pandemic has increased demand for private rentals.
The breakdown: A majority of summer travelers (85 percent) will stay in a hotel, compared to 23 percent who will opt for a private rental. More than a quarter (28 percent) of rental travelers have stayed at a private rental for the first time during the pandemic or plan to this summer. Furthermore, two-thirds of pandemic-minted renters say they expect to stay in rentals for at least half of future trips.
Where to Stay
Choosing where to stay is about more than location, the survey found. To note, for hotel guests, 89 percent cited enhanced safety measures as the main reason for their selection. Meanwhile, for those booking a private rental, 86 percent are driven by an amplified sense of control over COVID-19 exposure and their own safety. In addition, the supply of private rentals is an ongoing issue that leads rental travelers to cross-shop three and a half times more than hotel travelers. For example, 53 percent of rental travelers will consider a hotel for their trip, compared to just 15 percent of hotel travelers considering rentals. The lure of a luxurious hotel experience and loyalty rewards are contributing factors, as well.
An added boon: Americans who work from home are more likely to extend their summer vacations to work remotely. Over half of work from home travelers (56 percent) will add three or more days to their vacations, and they are twice as likely to spend more on travel compared with summer 2019, and 1.7 times as likely to plan international travel.