The vast majority of travel groups and tour companies plan to be back on the road sometime in 2021, according to a recent survey conducted by The Group Travel Leader. Most travel planners report that their customers will be ready to travel as soon as they have been vaccinated.
Ready to Return
The survey found that more than 75% of group travel planners anticipate traveling again before the end of the year. When asked “When do you expect your next group trip to depart?” Five percent said they are already operating trips, 17% said they expected to travel this spring, 23% expected to travel this summer, and 31% expected to travel this fall.
“There’s a building sense of optimism among travel planners,” said Brian Jewell, vice president and executive editor of The Group Travel Leader. “In the previous surveys we have conducted during the past year, planners’ hopefulness was tempered with uncertainty over travel restrictions and public health. But now, with vaccination efforts well underway, the uncertainty seems to be fading.”
Immunization appears especially key to restarting travel, with the survey indicating that many potential travelers will be ready to hit the road once they have been vaccinated, regardless of the status of the pandemic. When asked to identify statements that describe the mindset of their travelers, 40% said they had travelers who are “tired of being at home and are ready to travel now.” Another 69% said they had travelers who are “cautious about COVID-19 but will be ready to travel once they’ve been vaccinated.” And 39% said they had travelers who are “concerned about COVID-19 and want to stay put until the pandemic is over.” Respondents could select more than one option.
The results seem to indicate that traveler sentiment is somewhat at odds with the messaging coming from public health leaders.
“While government officials are continually saying that vaccination doesn’t guarantee safety, this survey data indicates that most travel lovers aren’t willing to stay home and wait much longer,” Jewell said. “While it may be late this year before the pandemic is officially declared over, our travel planners will have plenty of customers champing at the bit to go as soon as they’ve been vaccinated. The pent-up demand we’ve all been talking about for a year is going to be unleashed soon, whether governments like it or not.”
Another survey question, which dealt with immunization, found widespread acceptance of COVID-19 vaccines among potential group travelers. When asked which statement best describes their members’ attitudes toward the vaccine, 69% said their members are “eager to get the vaccine or have already started being vaccinated.” Another 17% said members are “ambivalent about the vaccine but will probably get it if it’s required for travel.” Only 2% said they had members who are “unwilling to be vaccinated, even if that means they aren’t allowed to travel for a while.”
A fourth question in the survey revealed the majority of groups plan to take trips this year that were originally scheduled for 2020. Some 71% said their trips for 2021 are rescheduled departures from last year. Additionally, 42% said they will be taking new trips they have scheduled since the pandemic began, and 22% said they hope to operate a trip they had already planned for 2021 before the pandemic began.
“On the whole, these results are very positive for the group travel industry,” Jewell said. “Most planners still intend to operate trips they had to postpone last year, and most of their travelers will be ready as soon as they’ve been vaccinated. If the vaccine rollout continues according to the timeline set out by the federal government, we should see a substantial rebound in group travel activity over the next few months.”