U.S. Travel Tracker June 2020: Temporary Uptick

by Haixia Wang + Skift Team - Jul 2020

Skift Research Take

With 33% of Americans taking at least one trip, June travel tells a promising story of the reopening. But it might be a very short-lived promise.

Report Overview

For the most part, June seems to be a month of continued recovery for the U.S. travel industry, as a result of many states lifting restrictions and resuming business as usual. According to our June U.S. travel tracker survey, 33% of Americans traveled in June, up from 24% in May.

However, the promise has already proven to be a false one. With soaring new coronavirus cases, the states that were opening too soon are re-imposing restrictions. We expect to see deeper declines as a result in the following months.

In this report, we highlight new trends in travel incidences, consumer sentiments and future travel intents distilled from our June Travel Tracker survey.

What You'll Learn From This Report

  • Travel incidences Jan – June 2020
  • June travel highlights
  • COVID-19 impacted travel Feb – June 2020
  • Changing consumer sentiments on the economic outlook Feb – July 2020
  • Changing consumer intent on future travel April – July 2020

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. Our March survey was fielded on April 8–13, 2020, with a total sample of 1,022. Our April survey was fielded on May 7–11, 2020, with a total sample of 1,077. Our May survey was fielded on June 1–3, with a total sample of 1,007. Our June survey was fielded on July 6–7, with a total sample of 1,006. All surveys were fielded online by a trusted third-party consumer panel provider.

In addition to the factual travel occurrences, we also asked respondents their perceptions on the macro-level economic condition as well their personal financial and travel 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.

Highlights of June U.S. Travel

Travel Rate Continued to Rise

Nearly 33% of Americans took at least one trip in June, only eight percentage points lower than February, when life was still normal and COVID was a remote concern.

Summer Is Vacation Time

Consumers resumed vacationing. Thirty-one percent of trips taken in June were for the purpose of vacations, barely three percentage points lower than the number in February. Interestingly, business travel, including general business and meetings, shows and conferences, continued to account for a higher share of total trips in the past three months than in January. With the total travel incidence rate still low, this is likely due to the low business travel incidence rate as a result of seasonality in January rather than a sign that business travel is recovering faster than leisure travel.

More Vacation Trips Mean More Paid Lodging

Private residence rose to be the most used accommodation type in May, following three months of continued rise in popularity since March. However, with more truly leisure trips, June was a good month for the U.S. lodging sector. Forty-three percent of personal trips in June involved hotel stays, an eight-percentage point jump from May. Campground and vacation rentals both saw significant growth as well. Our Skift Recovery Index scores echo the strong performance of the U.S. lodging sector. According to our Week of June 28 report, the U.S. lodging sector performed the best in June among the 15 major tourism markets we cover.

More Vacations Also Mean More Beach Going

Nearly 30% of all June trips were going to beaches, surpassing the January share. On the other hand, densely populated urban centers continued to fall as desired travel destinations. Sparsely populated small towns and countryside continued to be the most travelled to destinations.

Air Travel Is Finally Picking Up Slightly

After free falling for three months, air travel was finally showing a slight rebound. Limiting seat capacity, raising cleaning standards, and other safety procedures of major U.S. airlines might have started to catch consumers’ attention and played a role.

Travel Cancellation and Rearrangement Slowed Down

While still high, the number of consumers who cancelled or postponed pre-booked travel due to the concerns about COVID-19 were down in June compared to May.

Virus Concerns Still Weigh More Than Discounts

After all, it’s not an economic issue, but a virus issue. Skift Research has tested and stated this in a few previous reports already. Discounts and lower prices are not a solution to winning market share or gaining revenue during this crisis. Consumer behavior is viable proof of this argument. Booking travel because of a lower price has remained consistently low since the beginning of the outbreak. That people are not traveling is a safety issue, making price cuts mostly irrelevant.

Highlights of July Consumer Sentiments

Outlook on the U.S. economy continued the upward rise

Despite another surge of COVID cases and the reinstatement of lock-down policies, American consumers are still showing some optimism about the economy. Thirty-seven percent of surveyed Americans in early July believed the U.S. economic condition would be better in the next 12 months, compared to only 31% who thought so in February.

Still More Consumers Believed They Would Be Financially Better Off Than Not

Following the same trajectory as the macro-economic outlook, sentiment on the personal financial situation has been tilting towards the positive side since May. It’s likely that part of the reason for the optimism is that consumers who are suffering financially now due to job losses or salary cuts, believe their situation will improve from this low point as businesses reopen and they regain their jobs.

Number of Consumers Expecting to Spend Less on Travel Continued to Decline

The trend of more consumers planning to decrease travel spending in the next 12 months that we saw since the pandemic has continued in July. However, the number continued to drop as the pent-up demand started to drive more people to consider traveling again.

 

Highlights of July Future Travel Intent

Concerns and Impact of COVID-19 Rose Again

With the new surge of coronavirus cases, concerns about the virus and the perceived impact of the virus on personal lives started to rise again after falling in May and June. In early July, 57% of surveyed Americans said they were very concerned about the coronavirus, up from 52% in June, and 48% indicated their lives were very much impacted by the virus, up from 46% in June.

More People Are Seeing the Fight with the Coronavirus as a Longer-Term Battle

The number of consumers who believe COVID-19 will be under control by the end of the year continues to decline in July. More than one third of Americans now expect COVID to be over in the second half of 2021 and beyond.

Similarly, more people think it will take a long time for life to be back to normal even after the virus is under control. In early July, 26% of Americans surveyed predicted that life wouldn’t be back to normal until a year or more after the outbreak, a six-percentage-point jump from June.

More Consumers Planned to Wait Longer to Travel Again

After holding fairly stable for the past three months, the number of people who planned to travel soon after travel restrictions were lifted started to decline in July.

Road Trips Remained the Most Desired Trip Type

The numbers changed very little in terms of the expected first trip type for the last four months. Nearly 40% of consumers planned to take a local trip by car when they start to travel again.

Number of Consumers Who Said They Would Change Their Travel Preference for at Least One Part of Travel Post-COVID-19 Remained Stable

The number of consumers who said they would likely change their accommodation type went up slightly from June to July. The numbers for transportation and destination preference changes remained at the same level as June.

Accommodation preference

Transportation Preference

Destination Preference

Other January – June Data

General Travel Behavior

Trip Frequency

Trip Purpose

Domestic vs. Outbound

Type of Destination

Trip Planning

Personal Trip

Accommodation

Transportation

Business Trip

Accommodation

Transportation

Demographics