When will Americans feel safe to travel again? That’s the billion-dollar question, quite literally, as summer approaches and vaccine distribution continues. This is top of mind for millions of people across our nation and beyond — from travel industry workers to families planning their long overdue vacations.
While the decision to travel again is a personal one, we believe Google search data is probably the closest we can get to understanding the current travel sentiment across America. There are many travel surveys being conducted, but the scale of each pale in comparison to the size and speed of the Google search activity dataset. One of our primary goals was to see which state’s residents were making the most travel-related searches.
“Prior to completing this study, we had seen substantial quarter-over-quarter growth on our own website, to the tune of 2 million additional visitors and thousands more travel bookings,” said Dayne Ford, Founder and CEO of TripsToDiscover.com. “We’ve been producing travel content and working with travel booking partners since 2014 and have never seen such a sharp increase. We had to know more.”
We have charted all of our findings below in hopes of shedding some light on this tricky subject. Our analysis focused on the Google search activity of each U.S. state’s residents in three core travel categories: hotels, flights, and cruises. We ranked the states for 2019 and then 2021, year-to-date — including changes in rank which represent the impact on search activity between then and now.
Then, we analyzed and charted the states by composition of travel search category to provide a clear picture of what people in each state are most interested in this year.
Summary of Our Key Findings:
1. Since January 1, 2021, Google searches are up 92% for hotels, 79% for flights, and 88% for cruises.
2. People in Florida are the most active for travel search, unchanged from 2019.
3. The largest overall increases in travel search have occurred in Alabama, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, and Ohio.
4. The largest overall decreases in travel search have occurred in Hawaii, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Maine.
5. The largest increases in hotel search have occurred in Florida, DC, Rhode Island, Texas, and California.
6. While all categories are rising, our research suggests hotels are currently benefiting the most.
7. Searches for vacation rentals have remained relatively steady but current hotel growth far exceeds that.
We performed additional research to verify the Google search activity data aligns reasonably well with the business impact each industry is reporting — and from what we uncovered, it seems it does.
Our Key Research Findings:
1. Hotels are seeing record increases in bookings, levels not seen since Q1 2020.
2. U.S. airports are often seeing over 1200% more daily travelers than in the early days of the pandemic.
3. Advanced cruise ticket sales for 2022 are exceeding those seen in 2019 for the 2020 season.
Hotels are reporting impressive growth. According to booking data shared by the hospitality analytics firm STR, hotels are seeing record increases in bookings that haven’t been seen since late February/early March of 2020.
Airlines are also continuing to see strong growth, beyond the surge they saw from spring break travelers. According to an article on Reuters, airline executives are cautiously optimistic the growth will continue. We were also able to verify the increase in flight search activity correlates with an increase in travelers by reviewing the TSA traveler throughput data — which represents the number of travelers screened at airports each day. For example, April 7 this year saw an almost 1200% increase over the same date in 2020.
While the big cruise lines like Carnival and Royal Caribbean are still mostly shut down, promising information is being released about advanced bookings. As reported by Travel Weekly, during a recent earnings call, Carnival Corp. said the cumulative advanced bookings for the first half of 2022 are better than they were for the same period of 2019. They also said this was accomplished “with minimal advertising and marketing.”
Overall travel interest recovery and the breakdown per category appear to vary greatly by state. Below you’ll find charts we produced to illustrate the differences between the U.S. states — the first chart ranks them by combined search activity and the next two provide a category breakdown for each in 2019 and 2020 YTD.
We used direct data exports from Google Trends to compile the charts in this study. The timeframe used for all year-to-date data was January 1 – April 8, 2021. If you would like to learn more, Google provides a guide about how it represents search activity within Google Trends. To produce the Travel Search Ranked by State chart we combined the search score for each state within each of the three core travel categories and then ranked the list 1-51, from the highest to lowest total score. The data relating to TripsToDiscover.com was sourced from Google Analytics.
About Trips To Discover:
Trips To Discover is a travel publication with a focus on engaging, actionable travel content. Each year we help over 17 million travelers by providing high-quality content alongside user-friendly booking tools. Learn more about our company.
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