Frequent Traveler Recovery Report: Travelers determined to take flight

Frequent Traveler Recovery Report: Travelers determined to take flight
May 10, 2021

Frequent travelers show optimism and enthusiasm for future travel as COVID-19 vaccination program ramps up.

Editor’s Note (5/10/2021): This article includes findings from ICF’s eleventh wave of data collection that was fielded April 15 – 22. This wave collected 1,000 completes using a census-balanced, national non-probability sample. The new information, shared below, examines the impact of COVID-19 on the American public as well as their attitudes toward slowing the spread of COVID-19 and their current and anticipated future consumer behaviors. Learn more about the ICF COVID-19 Monitor Survey of U.S. Adults.

In the first refresh of our COVID-19 Monitor Survey since December, we surveyed 510 frequent travelers (individuals who reported traveling out of state for business or pleasure, weekly, monthly, or a “few times per year” prior to the outbreak of COVID-19) with a series of newly designed questions regarding the impact of the pandemic on their personal and professional lives, pandemic travel behaviors, anticipated future behaviors, responses to vaccination efforts and public health measures, and timing of future travel. The results show a frequent traveler population eager for—and planning for—major returns to pre-pandemic travel behaviors through the summer and fall.

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Frequent travelers turn quite optimistic that the “worst of the crisis is behind us.”

Since the arrival of FDA-approved vaccines in December, frequent traveler attitudes regarding the course of the pandemic essentially completely flipped. Frequent travelers now overwhelmingly believe that the “worst of the crisis is behind us,” at a level that is similar to the number who believed the “worst was yet to come” in November and December.

While many frequent travelers canceled 2020 summer travel, four-fifths who traditionally travel during the summer months plan to do so in 2021.

While in many parts of the country the summer months of 2020 offered a reprieve from the first wave of the pandemic, many frequent travelers canceled or changed their traditional summer travel plans. But in 2021, a large majority of these frequent travelers plan for a return to their pre-pandemic travel habits. Additional data regarding Independence Day, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and December holiday travel is available in our report and shows similar trends with sequential improvements in rates of planned travel as the year goes on.

Frequent travelers remain divided in their confidence in travel brands to deal with the pandemic.

While a clear majority of frequent travelers have “a great deal” of confidence or “a fair amount” of confidence in hotel and airline brands to deal with the pandemic, almost one-third of travelers remain doubtful of the ability of companies in these categories to appropriately deal with the ongoing pandemic.

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The frequent traveler population is more vaccinated and more likely to have completed the vaccine series than our non-frequent traveler survey respondents.

Frequent travelers are showing clear signs of motivation to return to a more normal way of life. They are significantly more likely to have received a COVID-19 vaccine than infrequent travelers and are much more likely to have done so earlier, leading to a greater percentage who have also received their completed vaccine series.

Frequent travelers are ready to travel and plan more travel in the years ahead.

As frequent travelers plan for the future, a clear majority plan to travel in similar amounts or more than they did before the pandemic, with 36% reporting that they plan to travel more. What’s clear is that frequent travelers are itching to get out and explore again soon.

Watch this space

How will American frequent travelers’ feelings and behaviors change as the summer begins and the national vaccination campaign winds down? We will report key findings from our data collection efforts over the coming months and share this information.

Meet the authors
  1. John Boyle, Senior Advisor, Survey Research

    John is a research expert with more than 30 years of experience in the design, execution, analysis, and reporting of large-scale health surveys. View bio

  2. James “Jamie” Dayton, Senior Vice President, Survey Research

    Jamie is a survey research expert with over 35 years of experience in strategy and implementation in the health, environment, and transportation industries. View bio

  3. Rachel Kinder