WASHINGTON, D.C. — A new survey conducted by Morning Consult and commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) shows Americans are optimistic about traveling again this year, with 56 percent reporting they are likely to travel for vacation in 2021.
That represents a significant decline from pre-pandemic levels, when approximately 70 percent of Americans took a vacation in any given year, according to OmniTrak (TNS) data. Since the onset of the pandemic, just 21 percent of survey respondents reported traveling for vacation or leisure, and only 28 percent reported staying in hotel. Prior to the pandemic, 58 percent of survey respondents said they stayed in a hotel at least one night per year for leisure, and 21 percent stayed at least one night per year for work.
The survey also found that while consumers remain optimistic about travel, consumer confidence about staying in hotels is tied to widespread COVID-19 vaccine distribution: 11 percent said they will feel comfortable staying in a hotel when vaccines are available to the general public, 20 percent when a majority of Americans have been vaccinated, and 17 percent when they are personally vaccinated.
The recovery of the travel industry is anticipated to take place in three phases: leisure travel, small and medium events, and group and business travel. While recovery will begin in 2021, full recovery is not expected until 2024.
The survey of 2,200 adults was conducted January 7-9, 2020 by Morning Consult on behalf of AHLA. Key findings of the survey include the following:
- 56 percent of Americans say they are likely to travel for leisure or vacation in 2021;
- 34 percent of adults are already comfortable staying in a hotel, while 48 percent say their comfort is tied in some way to vaccine distribution;
- Compared to last year, 36 percent of Americans expect to travel more for leisure in 2021, while 23 percent expect to travel less and 42 percent expect to travel about the same amount; and
- One in five Americans (19 percent) expect their next hotel stay to be between now and April, with another 24 percent expecting it sometime between May and August.
“While consumers are optimistic about traveling in 2021 after nearly a year of self-distancing measures, we continue to face record devastation. COVID-19 has wiped out 10 years of hotel job growth,” said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. “In the next COVID-19 relief package, the hotel industry needs support from Congress and the administration that will ultimately help small business hoteliers keep their doors open, and bring more employees back to work. Despite the challenges facing the hotel industry, hotels across the country are focused on creating an environment ready for guests when travel begins to return.”
While business travel itself will remain below 2019 levels for some time, business travelers expressed greater comfort in traveling for any reason compared to adults overall, and they are more likely to say they will travel more in 2021.
Leisure travel demand is projected to begin increasing from Q2 to Q3 of 2021 as vaccine distribution increases across the country and people can again connect with family and friends. In the year ahead, Americans say they are most likely to travel for a family event such as a wedding or family reunion (51 percent likely to travel), while many are likely to travel over summer holidays, led by the Fourth of July (33 percent) and Labor Day (28 percent).
While cleanliness has always ranked among the top factors when choosing a hotel, it has risen to the top in the wake of COVID-19. In a separate survey of travelers conducted by Ecolab in December 2020, 62 percent of consumers placed overall cleanliness in their top three factors when choosing a hotel—a 24 percent increase over pre-COVID preferences. Further, 53 percent of consumers say that enhanced cleaning regimens will make them feel more comfortable staying at a hotel.
These findings were also outlined in AHLA’s State of the Hotel Industry 2021 report, which details the forecasted state of the hotel industry in 2021 and into the immediate future. The report examined the high-level economics of the hotel industry’s recovery, the specific impact on and eventual return of business travel, and consumer travel sentiments.