Tripadvisor: Despite Slowing Demand, People Still Want to Travel

INTERNATIONAL REPORT—Tripadvisor and Phocuswright jointly released the findings of a comprehensive new research paper into the shifting trends in global travel demand and traveler behaviors, charting the industry’s road to recovery in the wake of the ongoing pandemic.

The report, entitled “2020—A Year in Travel: Charting the Travel Industry’s Path to Recovery,” analyzes Tripadvisor’s first-party data on travel planning behaviors around the globe, as well as consumer sentiment across six major markets, to provide insight into global travel trends.

Key findings from the report:

  • After positive signs of recovery in domestic leisure travel over the summer, demand for accommodation is now falling back in a number of markets as infection rates rise
    • Europe experienced the strongest leisure travel recovery during the summer, with the number of travelers researching domestic hotel stays reaching 2019 levels of demand for a sustained period in late July and August. However, the recent re-introduction of lockdown restrictions in countries like France, Germany and the U.K. has seen demand for rooms drop.
    • In the U.S., the domestic hotel recovery was slower but steadier than major markets in Europe. By the first week of September, domestic hotel clickers in the U.S.—likely driven by leisure travelers—outnumbered those in the same week in 2019.
    • Signs of recovery in Asia-Pacific were less obvious across the region as a whole between June and October, though some markets—such as Singapore—saw a surge in demand for domestic stays.
  • Confidence to travel remains fragile, but with big differences by market
    • Of consumers surveyed in six markets, confidence to travel was highest among U.S. respondents (48% said they felt more confident it would be safe to travel in the next three months compared to the previous three) and lowest among respondents in Italy (just 12%).
  • Travelers are reassessing the type of trips they want to take
    • Two-thirds of consumers surveyed (65%) say the ability to avoid crowded places when traveling is now a more important factor in their choice of destination than it was pre-pandemic, and more than half (52%) say they are more likely to take an outdoor/nature trip than they were before the pandemic.
    • Between May and September, outdoor activities, nature and parks accounted for 34% of all attraction page views on Tripadvisor, up from 25% in 2019.
  • …and as a result, their choice of destination is changing, too
    • Looking at year-on-year data over the October period, ski and seaside resorts, as well as other rural destinations, dominated the list of fastest recovering destinations in Europe for domestic accommodation searches on Tripadvisor, with Zermatt in Switzerland and Adler in Russia topping the list based on year-on-year demand
    • Over the same period, destinations like Key West, FL; Myrtle Beach, SC; and Sedona, AZ, were recovering quicker than larger destinations like New York and Las Vegas in the U.S., based on year-on-year demand for domestic accommodation searches.
  • Despite continuing consumer uncertainty, the desire to travel remains very strong
    • Nearly two-thirds (65%) of respondents are still thinking about where they want to travel next.

“While there was positive progress over the course of the summer, the re-introduction of tighter restrictions on travel in many countries is clearly having an impact on demand in the short-term,” said Steve Kaufer, CEO, Tripadvisor. “The good news is that consumers’ desire to travel remains incredibly resilient, and that pent-up demand bodes well for the travel industry in the long run, especially considering the advances announced last week in the development of a vaccine.”

“The industry has shown incredible adaptability and resilience in what has been a long and difficult year for travel,” said Charuta Fadnis, SVP of research and product strategy, Phocuswright. “Our research consistently shows that travel remains a key part of consumers’ lifestyles and travelers are keen to indulge their wanderlust again. Vaccines and therapeutics will boost the nascent recovery and the industry can look forward to brighter days ahead.”

The joint report by Tripadvisor and Phocuswright provides an update to the findings published in a June research paper by Tripadvisor, entitled “Beyond COVID-19: The Road to Recovery for the Travel Industry,” which outlined five distinct stages of tourism impact and recovery resulting from the pandemic:

  • Decline—Travel declines sharply as widespread restrictions enforced
  • Plateau—Sharp decline in bookings levels out, but travelers start dreaming their next trip
  • Emerge—Easing of travel restrictions begins, early signs of recovery in dining sector
  • Domestic Travel—Travelers book their first trips away, but stay close to home
  • International Travel—Border restrictions ease, and international travel begins to rebound

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