WHAT WILL SUMMER TRAVEL LOOK LIKE?

With the lockdown beginning to ease in some parts of the country, the question on many minds is, Will people indeed go somewhere, and what sort of travel will they take? For many, the priority is reconnecting with friends and family and taking the vacations they’ve been denied for the past several weeks.  So, what does travel in the Summer of Covid look like?

Surveys show there seems to be a broad spectrum of people, from those who are apprehensive to those who have no concerns whatsoever.  Give this range of mindsets, the return to traveling is likely to look like any typical production adoption curve, with some people leading the way and others waiting to see what happens based on their level of risk aversion and adventurousness.  As more people go places and word spreads that they’ve done so without incident, others are likely to become less tentative and be willing to try it themselves.

Of those who are willing to travel, research shows the highest levels of apprehension are around perceptions of commercial airline safety.  These are improving with the likes of United Airlines incorporating new protocols and procedures, including electrostatic sterilization of the planes after flights, as part of a co-branding effort with Clorox and the Cleveland Clinic.  Surveys show the perceptions around commercial air safety have finally returned to levels seen in early March.  Nonetheless, the number of people going through TSA checks nationwide, while slowly improving, just broke through 20% of the year prior on Friday, 6/14.

Yet people still long for a change of scenery, and 70% of people say they are ready to travel again to some degree.  It also appears most of them will stay closer in and go by ground.  In mid-May, the WSJ declared “Suddenly, it’s the Summer of the RV.”  Research corroborates that road trips can be expected to be the travel format of choice by many, and 51% of travelers recently stated they would take one between July and September.  Fifty-eight percent of those also report they intend to stay within 250 miles of their home, plan to go to state and national parks, recreation areas and mountain areas and small towns—urban centers, like planes, have seen big drops in numbers of people who intend to visit. 

All of these data points are, of course, accurate for the moment, change weekly and don’t account for any additional waves of outbreak.  With luck, there won’t be, and people can start getting out to see friends, family and new scenery again.

— Eric Koehler

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