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You might be wondering where your clients will be comfortable traveling to, once travel picks up again, and what they would feel most comfortable doing. The American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) conducted a survey by Morning Consult where they found that only 44 percent of Americans are planning overnight vacation or leisure travel in 2020, with high interest in road trips, family events, and long weekends over the summer months. Encouragingly, 68 percent of these expectant travelers say they are likely to stay in a hotel in 2020.

Among Americans planning to travel in 2020, 59 percent expect to take their first overnight trip by the end of the summer. Summer road trips will take center stage, with 72 percent planning an overnight vacation via car over the next five months. Of these, 75 percent expect to drive two or more hours.

On their next overnight trip, 43 percent plan to stay with family and friends, and 39 percent plan to stay in a hotel; just nine percent plan to stay at a short-term rental such as Airbnb or VRBO, and five percent in a camper or RV. Nearly eight in ten (78 percent) are planning a trip of four days or less suggesting long-weekend trips will be first vacation travel to return.

Key findings among those planning to travel in 2020:

  • What kind of travel they’re planning: 81 percent expect to take a day trip and 72 percent expect to take an overnight vacation via car within the next five months. The overwhelming majority do not expect to take cruises (14 percent), camper/RV trips (28 percent), or vacations via plane (32 percent) in 2020.
  • How far they’re traveling: Among those planning a vacation via car, 75 percent plan to travel two or more hours (40 percent plan to drive more than four hours, and 35 percent plan to drive two to four hours).
  • Where they’re staying: On their next overnight trip, 43 percent say they will stay with family or friends, 39 percent in a hotel, 9 percent in a short-term rental, and 5 percent in a camper/RV.
  • How long they’re staying: 78 percent are planning trips of four nights or less.
  • Why they’re traveling: 55 percent plan to travel for a family event, such as a wedding, birthday, anniversary, or family reunion; 50 percent plan to travel for Christmas, 43 percent for Thanksgiving, 33 percent for 4th of July, and 30 percent for Labor Day.

About 70 percent of Americans take a vacation in any given year, according to OmniTrak (TNS) data—suggesting that travel is a long way from pre-COVID-19 levels.

“Travel is by no means back yet, but we are encouraged to see people begin to travel as their communities reopen, and we all learn to navigate this new normal,” says Chip Rogers, president and CEO of the American Hotel & Lodging Association in press materials. “If you are thinking about traveling in 2020, my message to you is that hotels are clean and safe places, and we are ready to welcome you when you’re ready to travel. Through our Safe Stay initiative, we’ve enhanced our already rigorous cleaning protocols to be more transparent and give you even more peace of mind.”

Though travel is down compared to last year, travelers are starting to head to local destinations.

By a wide margin, Americans planning trips in 2020 plan to travel by car and stay either at family/friend’s house or hotel.

In the survey, respondents were asked the following questions:

Thinking about your future travel plans, please indicate the timeframe in which you expect to do each of the following: Go on an overnight vacation via…

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Thinking about your future travel plans, please indicate the timeframe in which you expect to do each of the following:

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AHLA recently launched  Safe Stay, the industry’s initiative focused on enhanced hotel cleaning practices, social interactions, and workplace protocols to meet the new health and safety challenges and expectations presented by COVID-19. The Safe Stay guidelines were created by an advisory council comprised of leaders from all segments of the hotel industry in accordance with CDC best practices. Safe Stay provides direction on employee and guest health, employee responsibilities, cleaning products and protocols, and physical distancing and will be revised as needed based on the recommendations of public health authorities, in compliance with any federal, state and local laws.

“Cleanliness and safety have been at the core of our industry since its beginning. Safe Stay is an industry-wide commitment to our top priority—the health and safety of guests and employees. With the implementation of Safe Stay, hotels will be cleaner than ever before.  As we see leisure travel slowly and safely resume, hotels are focused on establishing greater transparency and confidence throughout the entire guest experience, representing a new level of focus and transparency for an industry already built on cleanliness,” says Rogers in a press statement.

Regardless of their future travel plans, respondents were also asked about their interest in and comfort level with different types of accommodations. Would-be travelers expressed high interest in and comfort with hotels, and less interest and comfort in cruises and short-term rentals.

Respondents were asked:
Regardless of whether you are planning to travel soon or not, how interested, if at all, are you in the following? And, regardless of whether you’re planning to travel soon or not, how comfortable would you be, if at all, staying in the following types of accommodations?

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Across the country, travel ground to a halt in March. Hotel occupancy dropped to just 24.5 percent among open hotels nationwide in April, the lowest occupancy for any month on record in the U.S., according to STR. Since then, hotel occupancy has continued to tick up slowly, reaching 43.9 percent nationwide on June 20, but still far below the 74.5 percent occupancy at this time last year.

As we enter 4th of July weekend, hotel bookings are strongest in beach towns and smaller markets, according to Amadeus, a travel technology provider. Among the top 25 travel markets, only Norfolk/Virginia Beach has eclipsed 50 percent occupancy.

Rogers urged Congress to continue to prioritize the industries and employees most affected by the pandemic, including the travel and hospitality sectors. The industry has laid out a “Roadmap to Recovery” calling on Congress to help hotels retain and rehire employees, protect employees and guests, keep hotel doors open and incentivize Americans to travel again when it’s safe.

The Roadmap includes Congress passing a temporary tax incentive to encourage domestic travel, which would provide a boost to local economies, including hotels, restaurants, and retail stores that rely on business from travelers. According to Morning Consult survey data released last week, Americans widely support a new, temporary federal travel tax credit to encourage people to travel again.

“The hotel industry was the first impacted by the pandemic and will be one of the last to recover. We are a major economic driver, supporting millions of jobs and generating billions in tax revenue. Getting our economy back on track starts with supporting the hotel industry and helping them regain their footing,” concludes Rogers.

Survey Methodology

This poll was conducted by Morning Consult on behalf of AHLA. The survey was conducted June 16-19, 2020 among a national sample of 2,200 Adults. Of these, 973 respondents indicated they plan to travel in 2020. The interviews were conducted online and the data were weighted to approximate a target sample of adults based on age, educational attainment, gender, race, and region. Results among those who plan to travel in 2020 have a margin of error of plus or minus 3.1 percentage points.

Don’t miss, “Are the New Travel Protocols Post-COVID-19 Enough to Entice Travelers?”