Just a few days after the United States dropped its testing requirement for inbound travelers, Mandee Migliaccio at Stepping Out Travel Services in New Jersey already has booked a client who called to say, “finally I feel like I can travel freely”—and is off to Italy. Globus rolled out a “Better Together Flash Sale” on destinations from Scotland to Morocco. Hurtigruten Expeditions offered “Save Big on Bucket-List Destinations.”
Hold on to your hats, travel advisors. An already hectic summer for international travel season is likely to get even crazier, and suppliers are rolling out products to lure Americans to Europe even as we speak. The latest Portrait of the American Traveler has the hard data to back up what we already are seeing.
MMGY Travel Intelligence has been gathering the hard data to quantify just what the numbers are likely to be. Happily, its June 12 survey of 774 Americans and 436 Britons found that almost twice as many Americans (36% vs. 20%) and five times as many Brits (52% vs. 11%) are more likely to visit one other’s country since the testing requirement was repealed vs. those who are less likely. (About 40% of each group say the change does not affect their travel plans at all.)
- 36% of Americans are more likely to travel outside the U.S. within the next six months because the testing requirement has been lifted.
- 44% of Americans said the news does not impact their intent to travel internationally at all.
- 20% of those surveyed said they are less likely to travel internationally in the next six months without the testing requirement in place.
- 52% of British respondents said they are more likely to book a trip to the U.S. in the next six months because the COVID-19 testing requirement has been removed.
- 37% said the news affects the likelihood of them booking a trip to the U.S.
- Only 11% said the end of the testing requirement would make them less likely to book a trip to the U.S.
American travelers still do have some other concerns about international travel, though, the survey found. Americans cited the cost of international airfare and lodging (59%) and concerns about their personal safety related to violence and unrest (47%). British respondents were slightly less concerned, with 49% citing costs and 39% citing personal safety concerns as impacting their potential travel to the United States.
Despite the cost and the hassles, though, a second MMGY Travel Intelligence study, the 2022 Portrait of American Travelers® “Summer Edition,” taken before the new ruling on testing, found that US travelers are ready to hit the road in numbers equal to 2019.
In the next six months, 65% of US travelers intend to take a leisure trip, says the quarterly study, taken before the testing announcement, which polled 4,500 adults in the United States. The rising cost of travel now has passed Covid-19 as the top concern for the first time. But while 80% of the respondents said gas prices will impact their vacations, they are still packing. More than a third (35%) will decrease their spending on entertainment and shopping—but not give up traveling—and 48% said they would vacation closer to home. Younger travelers, travelers with children and travelers with incomes of more than $100K are the groups most likely to travel internationally in the next two years and Europe and the Caribbean are their preferred destinations.
Chatting on Zoom with MMGY Travel Intelligence EVP Chris Davidson, I asked if he had any insights into how the crashing stock market is affecting things. “It changes so much day to day,” he said, but in a quick Pulse Survey on Sunday, “considerations related to my personal financial situation” and the cost of travel overall were the top two concerns of both US and UK travelers. Travelers with household earnings over $100,000 have not canceled or delayed trips, however, and indeed, have increased their expected spend per trip to a mean of $3,150, more than 10% more than last year’s $2,829.
There has been a degradation in the travel expectations of lower-income and younger travelers, who cited “cost savings” as the reason they use a travel advisor, however. That (and I would add, along with travel advisors being more picky about their customers and charging fees) has led to a decrease in the number planning to using a travel advisor to book, from 36% to 31%.
Davidson also noted the covid-stoked interest away from crowded metropolitan destinations to more outdoor locations has passed, and “now we’re a significant comeback in destinations like Las Vegas and New Orleans and New York City, and a declining interest in places like Minneapolis, Portland and Seattle that have been affected by social unrest.”
But perhaps the most interesting thing, Davidson said, was the growing agreement of travelers with the statement, “The destinations I visit say a lot about who I am.” The number agreeing is up 20%, to half of all respondents, from 41% in 2019. “Travelers are more likely to visit destinations whose values seem to align with their own,” Davidson said. And so, rather than trying to be everything to everyone, “destinations are being asked to express an opinion with which travelers can align.”
Vancouver BC, for example, switched from marketing its natural resources to “a brand essence we helped them articulate as ‘See the beauty in everything,’” including its incredibly diverse and progressive population, where sustainability is a very important aspect of their mindset.
All sellers of travel, he said, should determine who exactly they are and how they will reach people who share similar perspectives.