November 18, 2020--The coronavirus pandemic has disrupted the travel and tourism industry in profound ways, according to data from Longwoods International’s Travel USA® research for the first half of 2020. Travel USA is the largest ongoing study of travel in the U.S., fielded quarterly to survey Americans about their domestic travel. This quarterly tracking data allows us to measure and report timely changes in travel patterns, which is particularly useful in 2020 due to the ever-changing impacts of the pandemic.
While there was a significant decline in American domestic travel and visitor spending in Q2 2020, a large volume of trips did still happen. Throughout the pandemic, traveler sentiment research has pointed to shifts in intent and travel patterns as a result of concerns over health and safety, as shown in the ongoing National Traveler Sentiment Research conducted by Longwoods. The Travel USA® visitor profile data for the first half of 2020 provides detailed insights on the actual changes in U.S. traveler behavior, which is much in line with American traveler sentiment throughout this time period. Here are the key trends emerging from the data as we look at the first half of 2020, mainly in the second quarter when the pandemic began to influence travel behavior across the nation.
- Per-person average trip spending on Overnight trips, which remained flat throughout H1 2019, was down almost a quarter over the same period in 2020, most notably in the Recreation, Food & Beverage, and Lodging categories.
- The decrease in spending was more pronounced in the leisure segment compared to business, with those traveling for business sustaining pre-pandemic spending patterns.
- Analyzing the primary purpose of trip, in Q2 2020 visiting friends and relatives comprised a 15% greater share of trips, and now represents almost half of all domestic trips. Additionally, the share of outdoor trips almost doubled in Q2 2020, compared to Q2 2019, and now over 10% of all overnight domestic trips.
- Regarding the transportation used by those who were traveling, commercial flights have lost over a third of share between Q1 and Q2 2020 as more people chose road transportation modes.
- Road trips using personal cars/trucks is the top trip method of the quarter, being used by more than ¾ of travelers during the first half of the year.
- Traditional paid lodging – including hotels, motels, resorts, and B&B – has lessened as the accommodation choices among travelers, and subsequently, bookings through short-term rental websites have gained share as travelers turn to these accommodations.
- On average, travel parties are gaining in size, expanding by 15% in Q2 2020, sitting slightly higher than the long-term average around 3 persons.
- The average length of stay is also increasing throughout the first half of the year; H1 2020 trips increased in length nearly 10% from H1 2019 sitting around 4 nights on average.
- This is mostly driven by double-digit increases in Q1 2020, with the increase in the length of stay softening in Q2 2020. Longwoods will keep an eye on this trend through Q3 and Q4.
Fielded quarterly, Travel USA® is the largest and longest ongoing study of American travelers and will continue to run through the second half of 2020. Longwoods International will evaluate these and other emerging trends throughout the second half of the year and will make those national insights available over the upcoming months. For more information, contact [email protected].
*Please note that this analysis was done using preliminary quarterly data. As such, it can be interpreted and applied accordingly with final updates conducted in the full year analysis.