Longwoods International Travel USA® Highlights
2021 is proving to be the bridge between the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 and the stabilization of travel behaviors and motivations in the years ahead. As such, visitor profile data from H1 2021 provides valuable insights as to how this space is evolving. Longwoods International’s Travel USAâ 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 for navigating the evolving domestic travel market.
The Travel USAâ visitor profile data for the first half of 2021 provides insights on the shifts that are occurring in U.S. traveler behavior as visitors continue to navigate an evolving pandemic landscape. Here are some of the key trends emerging from the data as we look at the first half of 2021.
Year over year, Q2 2021 per-person overnight and day spending is up, 17% and 13% respectively, with increases in spending seen across expenditure categories- food and beverage, recreation and entertainment, retail purchases, transportation, and lodging for overnight travel.
Travel for vacation related purposes, marketable trips*, is gaining share, while visiting friends and relatives (VFR) in remains a primary trip type and travel driver for U.S. travel. In Q2 2021, half of all overnight trips were vacation related, up 5 points from Q4 2020, compressing the share of trips to visit friends and family which shrank by 5 points from Q4 2020 to 41% of all trips in Q2 2021. Looking at day trips, marketable has gained 6 points since Q4 2020, representing 51% of all American domestic trips in Q2 2021. Visiting friends and relatives has fallen 4 points in that same time period, to 33%.
Paid accommodations, such as hotels, motels, resorts, rented homes, etc., are also gaining share. Two-thirds of all American domestic trips included staying at paid accommodations in Q2 2021, up 10 points from Q2 2020. Interestingly, while visiting friends and relatives represents 41% of overnight trips in Q2, only 18% of overnight domestic trips have people staying with their friends and relatives.
While road trips remain dominate, travelers are getting more comfortable with air travel. In Q2 2021, 23% of all domestic overnight trips involved a commercial flight to get to their destinations, up 6 points from Q2 2020. Meanwhile, travelers used their own cars or trucks for 70% of overnight trips in Q2 2021, down 4 points from Q2 2020.
Travelers are engaging more with the destinations they visit. In Q2 2020, 22% of overnight domestic travelers reported they didn’t participate in one of the dozens of activities Longwoods tracks in Travel USAâ. In Q2 2021, that fell 6 points to 16%. As COVID-19 restrictions lessen and more Americans are vaccinated, there is both more opportunities and more appetite for travelers to experience what a destination has to offer.
Looking at the food choices overnight travelers are making, unique and local food offerings were a part of 42% of trips in Q2 2021, up 7 points from Q2 2020. This increase is clearly linked to more restaurants being open as COVID-19 restrictions lessened and lifted. One note of interest is that the use of food delivery services on overnight trips remains stable - being used in 21% of trips in Q2 2020 and 20% of trips in Q2 2021.
Fielded quarterly, Travel USAâ is the largest and longest ongoing study of American travelers and will continue to run through the second half of 2021. 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].
* Marketable trips are defined as those trips whose primary purpose is not visiting friends and relatives or conducting business. They are the trips whose destination selection can be most influenced by marketing.
**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.