U.S. Travel Tracker January and February 2020: Onset of COVID-19 Impact

by Haixia Wang + Skift Team - Mar 2020

Skift Research Take

We are keeping track of if and how the U.S. population is traveling month by month and hope to detect signs of a rebound in the not too distant future.

Report Overview

We planned to launch a monthly travel tracking survey for the U.S. and China starting in January 2020. As we were working on the survey questions, China locked down the entire country in an effort to control the spread of COVID-19 and it didn’t make sense to track travel there for the time being.

Our first survey was fielded on February 25-28, asking respondents to report their travel incidences and details in January, as well as their attitude on the economic outlook for the next 12 months. Forty-six percent of surveyed respondents taking at least one trip in January.

Our second survey was collected on March 12-16. This time in addition to questions on travel taken in February, we added COVID-related questions, including canceled and rescheduled trips and levels of COVID-19 impact. Travel incidence in February dropped to 41%. The number of people who feared they would be worse off financially in the next 12 months jumped from 21% three weeks before to 43%.

In this report, we present data findings for the January and February surveys. For the time being, we will only report the top-line data from the surveys, painting the broad picture of where the most important points stand and change. With the premise of the monthly tracking now changed to capture how deep the virus is impacting travel on a monthly basis and detecting early signs of recovery, we will drill down to sector and demographic specifics in future reports.

Survey Methodology

Skift Research’s monthly U.S. travel tracking surveys are conducted to examine the travel penetration rates and detailed travel behavior of the U.S. population. The sample population represents the demographic breakdowns of age, gender, income, race/ethnicity, and residential location of the U.S. Census Bureau. Respondents are asked to report if they traveled in the previous month and recall travel-related details if they did. Our January survey was fielded on February 25-28, 2020 with a total sample of 1,002. Our February survey was fielded on March 12-16, 2020, with a total sample of 1,085. Both surveys were fielded online by a trusted third-party consumer panel provider.

In addition to travel related questions, we also asked respondents their perceptions on future economic outlook. Given those questions reflect what respondents felt at the time of the survey, the date for those questions that we refer to in this report is the month when the survey was conducted, instead of the month when travel happened.

What You'll Learn From This Report

  • Trip incidence, destination type, in-destination activities and trip planning for the U.S. population in January and February 2020
  • COVID-19 related travel changes in February 2020
  • Key traits of personal trips in January and February, including travel companion, packaged tours, booking method, accommodation, flight, hotel and airline loyalty memberships
  • Key traits of business trips in January and February, including booking and payment methods, out-of-pocket payment, accommodation, flight, hotel and airline loyalty memberships
  • Perception of U.S. economy and personal financial condition in February and March 2020