Dreaming of Travel in the Time of Covid

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Lauren Wilson - Author
by Lauren Wilson

Chances are you’re part of the majority of destinations who have travelers cancelling or postponing a trip due to COVID-19. However, as some restrictions begin to lift, many people are feeling higher levels of cautious optimism about planning a trip in the next few months1. Even pre-COVID, psychologists have established that people are at their happiest when they are planning or anticipating an upcoming travel experience.2 And people are beginning to act on it. 72% of Americans have stated that they’re already making plans to go on their next vacation. So, is it time to start marketing again, and how should you go about marketing your destination?
There are two main questions you need to ask: Where will travelers go? and When will they go?
The first is easier to tackle but requires understanding about where travelers’ comfort levels lie. Will they be comfortable flying or are they more likely to take road trips? With heightened sanitization efforts at most major hotel chains4, will travelers feel safe staying in a hotel, or is an Airbnb or an RV the way of travel? With 37.6 of Americans avoiding air travel in 2020, you may want to consider switching your target audience to people within driving distance.5
There is also the consideration of activities and how consumers will want to enjoy themselves once they’ve reached your destination. A majority of Americans say they will continue to avoid crowded destinations after the Coronavirus situation is resolved6, and outdoor excursions and familiar trip destinations will become more popular7.
The comfort level of different age groups will also impact who is traveling. The 65+ individuals state their biggest concern with travel is getting infected by COVID-198, which will have an impact on multigenerational travel.
Many factors can help you identify your marketing audiences. Knowing whether travelers will be taking a road trip or transitioning back to flying is important. Will they be traveling with their extended family? Or smaller family units? Also understanding what types of activities they’ll be comfortable participating in will greatly affect destinations. Having answers to these kinds of questions will help you shift your audience’s mindset from dreaming to booking future trips.
The bigger question is when will people start traveling again? Even with some encouraging sentiment emerging, most Americans still associate fear, uncertainty, and concern about travel. They want to see health screening and updated cleaning protocols become common business practices.9 It will take a few weeks to a few months for most people to become comfortable with even the most common tourism practices (staying in hotels, dining out, air travel) once restrictions are lifted, and many say screenings are necessary to alleviate the anxiety of travel.10
Will people ever travel again? Absolutely. Will it be different? Probably, but potentially in a good way. Hygiene and safety will be integral to the traveler experience, over-tourism of Instagram-famous destinations will decrease, and there will be a greater value placed on spending time with loved ones in new places. And until then, utilize marketing to inspire travelers to dream, and create messaging that reassures them that they will be welcomed when the time is right and they are ready.  

1 Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment index Report, Key Findings – Week of April 27, 2020
2 Psychology Today, “Six Ways Traveling Can Boost Your Mental Health,” November 2018.
3 Travel Pulse, “Many Americans Are Already Planning their Next Vacation,” April 24, 2020
4 MSN.com, “Marriott International Introduces High Tech Disnfecting Machines,” April 22, 2020
5 Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment index Report, Key Findings – Week of April 27, 2020
6 Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment index Report, Key Findings – Week of April 27, 2020
7 TravelPulse, “What will US Travel Look Like After COVID-19” April 4,2020
8 Upgraded Points, “Americans’ Travel Plans and concenrs During COVID-19”, March 31, 2020
9 Destination Analysts’ Coronavirus Travel Sentiment index Report, Key Findings – Week of April 27, 2020
10 eMarketer; Destinations Analysts, “Update on Coronavirus Impact on American Travel, Week of April 6th”