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Survey Results: COVID-19’s Impact on America’s Summer Travel Plans

Airport travel

It’s undeniable that COVID-19 has left the American travel industry in shambles, with 7 out of 10 hotels rooms sitting empty (source) and airlines receiving billions of dollars in government bailouts (source.) Our biggest questions here at Trips To Discover have centered around recovery and whether Americans will be getting back on the road, and into the sky, just in time for summer travel. We wanted to establish our own clear data set so we directly surveyed 540 travelers about their upcoming summer travel plans. These are our findings. If you’d prefer an infographic please scroll to the bottom.

The direct impact of COVID-19 on summer travel plans:

  • 29% of respondents cancelled their trips entirely
  • 20% still haven’t decided about what they will do
  • 20% are still traveling exactly as planned
  • 18% are still traveling but have changed their destination or plans
  • 11% didn’t have travel planned yet

When those who cancelled were asked why they did so, 51% said it was because of travel restrictions and shutdowns. 47% said it was because they are concerned for their health and only 1% that it was to reduce their spending. These answers are particularly interesting and seem like a strong indicator as to why COVID-19 is such a polarizing issue, especially when it comes to travel.

Another extremely interesting result set from our survey involves the types of accommodations. Of the people who cancelled, 50% of the trips involved large hotels and resorts and 28% vacation rentals. Of the people still traveling, only 29% of the trips involve large hotels and resorts while 27% involve vacation rentals. This indicates large hotels may be taking a much larger occupancy hit over the summer than their smaller/independent rental counterparts. Another interesting trend in our answers was that of the people who cancelled, 28% of them were staying with family at some point. Only 21% of those still traveling will be staying with family — a sad indication that families will not be getting together quite as much over the summer.

For reference, here’s the raw answer data on the types of accommodations:

  • Hotels & resorts: 50% of cancelled trips | 29% of still planned trips
  • Vacation rentals: 29% of cancelled trips | 28% of still planned trips
  • Staying with family: 28% of cancelled trips | 21% of still planned trips
  • Small or boutique hotels: 21% of cancelled trips | 14% of still planned trips
  • RV or camping: 9% of cancelled trips | 6% of still planned trips

Based on the following data, it seems people have clearly transitioned to more driving trips than flying but the impact of flights isn’t as large as we expected. It’s not surprising that cruises were largely impacted but notable that 5% of the trips still planned involve cruising.

Here are the answers for types of transportation:

  • Flights: 80% of cancelled trips | 61% of still planned trips
  • Driving – 51% of cancelled trips | 76% of still planned trips
  • Walking – 18% of cancelled trips | 21% of still planned trips
  • Cruise – 13% of cancelled trips | 5% of still planned trips
  • Bus – 8% of cancelled trips | 3% of still planned trips
  • Train – 8% of cancelled trips | 6% of still planned trips
  • Metro – 8% of cancelled trips | 5% of still planned trips

As for travel budgets, the leading spend for cancelled trips was $2,500-5,000 and the trips still planned is $1,000-$2,500. This is interesting but somewhat logical because of the lower costs of driving versus flying but it could also relate to the often lower costs of vacation rentals versus hotels and resorts.

Here are the answers for trip expenditures:

  • $1,000 or less: 14% of cancelled trips | 27% of still planned trips
  • $1,000-2,500: 18% of cancelled trips | 34% of still planned trips
  • $2,500-$5,000: 40% of cancelled trips | 24% of still planned trips
  • $5,000-$7,500: 10% of cancelled trips | 6% of still planned trips
  • $7,500+: 16% of cancelled trips | 7% of still planned trips

We also collected information about the cancellation process from those who have cancelled. 25% of those who cancelled were unable to get refunds for any part of their trip. Of the 75% of the people who received some sort of refund; cruises, car rentals and attractions or event tickets were the hardest to get.

Here are the responses surrounding cancellation refunds:

  • Hotel & resorts – 61% refunded
  • Flight tickets – 52% refunded
  • Vacation rentals – 26% refunded
  • Attractions and events – 20% refunded
  • Car rentals – 15% refunded
  • Cruise tickets – 13% refunded

Also in relation to cancellation, we collected information from people who changed their trips instead of cancelling altogether. This data provides a bit more proof that while the lodging industry is still heavily impacted, people have shifted their travels from hotels to vacation rentals. In the near term post-COVID climate, benefits of more isolation and social distancing makes this a logical finding. Also notable is that tose who had hotel bookings appear to have mostly changed which hotel.

Here is how people changed their trips:

  • Flights – 62% cancelled | 47% booked
  • Hotels & resorts – 53% cancelled | 45% booked
  • Vacation rentals – 17% cancelled | 29% booked
  • Attractions & events – 29% cancelled | 17% booked
  • Car rentals – 18% cancelled | 18% booked
  • Cruises – 18% cancelled | 4% booked

How people generally feel about upcoming travel

Finally, we asked all of our respondents how they feel about near term travels. Many people answered with optimism, indicating they will probably be comfortable within the next 1-3 months but 6-12 months was the next biggest group of answers. We also asked what they will be avoiding and not much to our surprise cruises made the top of the list in that category.

Here are the answers on timeline for getting comfortable with travel:

  • 1-3 months – 45%
  • 3-6 months – 17%
  • 6-12 months – 21%
  • 1 year or more – 16%

And what people will be avoiding in near term future travels:

  • Cruises – 74%
  • Theme parks & attractions – 51%
  • Events & concerts – 49%
  • Flights – 31%
  • Restaurant dining – 17%

Closing thoughts

Whether you are a traveler, part of the media, or work directly in the travel industry — we hope you’ve found our data as interesting and insightful as we have. We are optimistically watching the travel industry for a full recovery and wishing all travelers and travel workers the best during these trying times.

Our infographic:

We’ve produced the below visual representation of our data. Please feel free to share it on social media or your website but please cite us and this results article. The source file is located here.

Infographic Covid19 Travel Impact
Infographic Covid19 Travel Impact


Data limitations
Our survey data is compiled of self-reported information from our 540 respondents. This means they may be influenced by minimization or exaggeration. The data set is based on means and is not statistically tested.

Fair Use Statement
Feel free to share our data, article or graphics but please cite us by name and only use this information for noncommercial purposes.

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