US: Online travel agency Expedia has published its 2020 Summer Travel Report, which analyses the latest traveller trends ahead of the peak of this year’s summer season, despite the Covid-19 pandemic playing havoc with travel plans.
Summer travel looks invariably different this summer, and Expedia’s latest report sheds light on the emerging priorities and behaviours of Americans looking to get away this season.
The company leveraged search and demand data and a national poll of more than a thousand Americans to compile the following key takeaways:
- 85 per cent of US travellers are likely to take a road trip this summer
- Interest in domestic summer stays is up ten per cent year-on-year, making up nearly 85 per cent of hotel searches overall in June
- Demand for staycations is on the rise
- Flexibility is key: 97 per cent of stays booked in June were refundable rates, up nearly 20 per cent year-on-year
- Health and safety, avoiding crowds is being prioritised over price
Expedia senior director of PR and social, Nisreene Atassi, said: “People miss travel, they have vacation days to use and they also want to stay safe. Given how quickly the advice and restrictions are changing, one of our main priorities at Expedia is making sure our customers have the information they need to navigate this summer travel season.”
Summer travellers staying closer to home, according to Expedia
Travelling within the United States is always a popular option for Americans, but international travel restrictions coupled with health and safety uncertainty has led to a ten per cent increase in domestic summer travel searches, according to data from Expedia. Nearly 85 per cent of hotel searches on the site in June were for accommodations located within the country, furthermore about a quarter of June bookings were for same-state stays, a slight increase from last year.
Last-minute getaways are also on the rise, with more travellers booking zero- to seven-day trips this summer than in previous years.
Atassi said: “While the desire to get away is still going strong for many of us, how and where we’re choosing to go this summer looks different. Beaches and national parks remain popular, but more Americans are choosing destinations that are closer to home and drivable, versus going somewhere more exotic.
“Interestingly, we’ve seen that travellers are making these plans at the last minute. Things are so unpredictable right now with Covid-19, so it’s possible that travellers feel more comfortable making travel plans for the near future vs. planning too far ahead,” she added.
Safety first: road trips seen as the safest way to get away this summer
According to a recent survey of one thousand Americans commissioned by Expedia, 85 per cent say they are planning or are likely to go on a road trip this summer, driven primarily by the need for a change of scenery [43 per cent] and the desire to enjoy the outdoors [36 per cent],
As travellers venture away from home and destinations open back up to tourism, health and safety takes priority over price when trip-planning. Seventy two per cent of survey respondents said they are opting for a road trip this summer because it feels safer than flying, and more people listed health and safety [72 per cent] and avoiding crowds [68 per cent] as top concerns over budget [60 per cent].
In response to these concerns, the industry is rolling out new sanitation measures to help minimise risks. Expedia says it displays these hygiene amenities on its site so travellers can feel comfortable leaving home.
Travelers can also message their vacation rental or hotel from the Expedia mobile app and ask for more info on their policies, request special arrangements or check whether certain amenities such as the pool or spa are going to be open.
With so much uncertainty impacting vacation plans this year, many travellers are opting for plans that can be easily adjusted, cancelled or rescheduled. Expedia data showed that 97 per cent of hotel stays booked in June were refundable rates, a 20 per cent increase from the year before.
To make it easier to search for flexible options, Expedia is allowing travellers to filter by hotels that offer free cancellation and airlines that are waiving any change fees for future bookings.
Atassi said: “People often choose non-refundable rates because they’re generally cheaper, but with so many destinations eager to welcome back tourists it’s more realistic than ever to find a great value without having to sacrifice flexibility.”
Planning tips and tricks
Survey respondents weighed in with their top advice and considerations for those planning a summer road trip:
- Have a plan. Thinking about where to stop for petrol / gas, how long to drive each day and what time of day to drive through a town are all aspects of a road trip to map out in advance.
- Know where to stay. If you are among the 52 per cent of travellers staying in hotels and motels this summer, make sure to research ahead of time or enquire about specific policies, such as whether the property will have decreased occupancy. Other accommodation types people will most likely opt for on a road trip this summer include staying with friends / family [31 per cent], vacation rentals [28 per cent] and camping [24 per cent].
- Do vehicle maintenance. Car trouble, especially with kids or pets in the mix, is rarely a fun experience. When planning a road trip, have your car serviced or inspected before leaving. Alternately, rent a car with better mileage or more space.
- Download apps. Whether it is a kid-friendly game or navigation, it is a good idea to download any apps you will need before hitting the road.
- Remember to bring money. Tolls, cash-only services and tipping are just a few things you might need money for during a road trip.
- Pack the essentials. In addition to clothing and toiletries, road trippers advise bringing snacks, an emergency kit, cleaning / sanitary products, valid documents [ID and insurance card] and a spare car key.