If at this moment, you are hopeful but anxious about traveling—as more and more regions of the U.S. end lockdown and other countries around the world begin to reopen borders—you are not alone. In fact, “hopeful” and “anxious” are the two most common sentiments around travel felt by members of our Indagare community these days. Indagare recently polled more than 800 members and subscribers to gauge traveler sentiment about post-COVID travel and gain a better understanding of their current concerns about safety, trip-planning, flying and the destinations they are most likely to consider returning to first.
Among the 836 members and subscribers who responded, it is clear that, even while many are eager to get back out into the world to explore, their attitudes center around a theme of “safety first.” The majority of respondents in the Indagare COVID-19 Travel Sentiment Survey (87 percent) are between the ages of 35 and 75 and take an average of four to six trips a year. The number one concern of the majority of respondents (84 percent), is for their general health safety and a fear of becoming ill on the road or being exposed to those who are ill while traveling, followed by being stuck somewhere, should borders be closed again (60.3 percent).
The Takeaway: In the survey, 33 percent of those polled plan to travel when they have a clearer sense of health safety/medical solutions for COVID-19. 24 percent plan to travel right away.
As they weigh future travel, the safety of the destination is the most important consideration. More than half (51.5 percent) want to focus on destinations that have managed COVID-19 well, regardless of distance. “While this group is cautious, with 56 percent needing a clearer sense of safety or believing it is too soon to travel,” says Indagare CEO and founder Melissa Biggs Bradley, “there is also a bigger desire than we anticipated among people to begin traveling as soon as they are able; nearly one quarter of those asked (24 percent) want to get back into exploration mode immediately.”
What will give travelers the confidence to pack their bags again and to get on planes is up-to-date accurate information. “It’s all about open, authentic communication. This leads to trust, and the post-COVID world will be about exactly that: trust,” explained one respondent. “Open, honest communication is lacking in the world, especially in news outlets. I know that Indagare does, and can continue to offer real, honest information.” For this reason, it seems that travelers will be relying more heavily on trusted travel advisors as they do make plans; 24.1 percent indicated that they would be more likely to use a Trip Designer post-COVID.’
The Takeaway: Health safety in general and how destinations managed COVID-19 was the top concern of all travelers polled, followed by flexibility in cancellation policies and the ability to make booking changes without penalty.
Wishful Thinking: Going Remote and Dreaming Big
Lockdown seems to have given people a new appreciation for remote, isolated places as well as bucket-list destinations, with 42 percent saying they are more likely to pick off-the-beaten-path locations post-COVID and 38.6 percent saying that they are more likely to take “wish list trips”: “There is definitely a group who are emerging from lockdown with a carpe diem or life is short mentality,” says Biggs Bradley. “When the right to do something is taken away, it is no longer taken for granted.” Of those surveyed, 40 percent are interested in 2021 trip-planning.
The Takeaway:“We plan to take this opportunity while we are not traveling to develop a five-year travel plan.”—Indagare Member
To fly or not to fly—is paying a premium worth it?
Attitudes towards booking and transportation have also changed. After safety, the second most important consideration for travelers when they book their next trip will be the ability to cancel and get a full refund (24 percent), followed by flexibility in dates and the ability to change them without charge (20 percent).
The Takeaway: “I am basing all current travel decisions for summer 2020 on the ability to cancel, change dates and stay fluid should any area become a hot spot or my family falls ill. I do not want to make any advance reservations that cannot be cancelled or changed as needed,” one Indagare member noted.
Of all respondents, almost one quarter (23.5 percent) are very or extremely comfortable getting on a plane again. Most are likely to fly commercial (84.2 percent) or drive (74.5 percent, but 30.3 percent would consider flying private, with more than half of Indagare members (52 percent) doing so. And when they do fly commercially, 85 percent want to fly business, first, premium economy or private, indicating a willingness to pay a premium for social distance. When asked which specific regions they would be most likely to travel to when restrictions are lifted, Europe (68.3 percent) and the U.S. (64.1 percent) nearly tied, but the Caribbean (34.1 percent) and Australia and New Zealand, regions perceived to have managed outbreaks well, are also likely to attract early return travelers. “With New Zealand announcing that it is COVID-free and the possibility of a COVID travel bubble for New Zealand and Australia under discussion, pent-up demand for both destinations is likely for early 2021,” says Indagare’s COO Eliza Harris.
Looking for Privacy
Given that health safety is a top priority, it’s no surprise that private options are also now becoming more appealing to many of those surveyed. While 30 percent of all those surveyed would consider flying privately when lockdown restrictions are lifted, Indagare members are more likely to do so (52 percent) than subscribers (23 percent). Almost 15 percent of Indagare members want to fly private. Respondents also revealed that they are more likely to rent villas or houses (36.7 percent), travel closer to home (34.6 percent) and consider a private yacht charter (19.6 percent) post-COVID. Indagare has also been receiving numerous queries for longer-term house rentals in the U.S this summer. The idea of creating your own personal COVID-free travel bubble or simulating many of the protections put in place during quarantine when traveling makes sense in the aftermath of the pandemic, especially for a family or group who has already quarantined together. For those going to states that still maintain quarantine protocols, it could also be seen as a way to promote health safety for longer stays. Of those surveyed, 29 percent also noted that they would be more likely to travel with family.
The Takeaway: Some members of the Indagare Community are considering flying private and are interested in the safest and most cost effective private air travel options outside of fractional ownership.
Comforts of Home: Armchair and Virtual Travel
Another lockdown effect seems to be the rise of the armchair travel phenomenon, as avid travelers embraced virtual travel series, travel-inspired cooking classes and art lectures and tours and travel-themed conversations and podcasts while stuck at home. “The in-person talks are so much more interesting and enlightening than reading an article,” said one member. “So hopefully you can continue post-corona. I have loved every one and have regretted any that I couldn’t attend.” This appetite for curated, well-produced content along with recommendations for what to read, watch, cook and more looks like something that will continue, with 82 percent of respondents requesting travel inspiration and entertainment to enjoy at home.
The Takeaway: “Keep sending information about all of the wonderful and beautiful places around the world. While I may not be able to travel there in person for now, seeing the images and imagining myself there always lifts my spirits. Learning about the various places is very interesting and distracting in these crazy times,” said one Subscriber.
The Takeaway: Another Indagare Member surveyed noted: “We are continuing our thirst for cultural experiences and knowledge through your Global Classroom. It keeps the spirit and momentum going for those of us who have been ignited by the gifts of travel experiences.”
Where to Next?
“The sentiment revealed in our survey is playing out in how we are seeing travel interest and action pick up,” said Biggs Bradley. Indagare has noticed an increase in inquiries as well as bookings in recent weeks. “After two-and-a-half months with few members traveling, a small number have begun to travel domestically, and every day we get requests for international trips, so we update our Border Reopening List daily.” Some are flying privately to hotels like Amangiri in a remote area of Utah or driving to bucolic Blackberry Farm in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee or to hotels like The Lodge at Blue Sky or Sorrel River Ranch, both in Utah. All of these hotels offer wide-open spaces and premium experiences in nature and have implemented social distancing protocols and reduced capacity for the summer months to address health safety concerns. See Our Favorite U.S. Destinations for Extended Summer Stays for more ideas on where you can go in the coming months, as the country and the rest of the world opens for travel once again.
The Takeaway: Several Members are looking to find unique destinations this summer on the beach on the East Coast within driving distance and where they can rent for an extended period.
Contact Indagare for advice on summer travel and trip-planning. Our Trip Designers can help you evaluate social distancing measures, hotel protocols and the best options for getting to a destination.