This holiday season, more consumers want to travel. But will they?

More consumers want to travel this holiday than they did pre-pandemic, according to data from our annual Holiday Outlook. Whether they actually will travel depends on a variety of interlocking factors, chief among them public health.

What we do know is that travel demand is high. In past years, our data revealed that roughly a third of the population traveled during the holidays, typically to visit family and friends. That held true even last year, when holiday travelers swapped air travel for road trips using personal vehicles.

This year, however, more than half our survey respondents (52%) told us they plan to travel. Rising vaccination rates continue to fuel pent-up demand after more than a year of pandemic-related anxiety. On the flip side, the fear of variants has kept many would-be travelers homebound.

The good news

By a wide margin, travelers who’ve taken at least one trip since the onset of the pandemic are enthusiastic about traveling again. They also recommend it to others: More than 70% would recommend flying and more than 60% would recommend overnight stays to those who are still uncertain about travel.

Of those who do plan to travel this holiday, most will go by car (72%). Meanwhile, a sizable minority (40%) plans to travel by air. For those with household incomes above $150,000, that percentage is substantially higher, at 57%. Most travelers will stay with family or friends or at branded hotels this holiday. Millennials favor branded hotels while Gen Z prefers short-term rentals.

To stay current with consumer preferences, demand intelligence tools can help assess leading indicators of travel and discover what appeals to various segments of travelers.

Public health remains paramount

Regardless, a consistent refrain from consumers is the importance of public-health protocols: 70% told us they favor vaccination verification while traveling. And more than half (56%) support policies that would prevent those without proof of vaccination from traveling.

Lingering public-health concerns continue to affect travel choices. More than half (56%) of consumers told us they believe brand-name hotels are safer than short-term rental properties.

And 28% plan to stay at higher-end properties than they did before the pandemic, associating them with better health protocols.

This level of brand trust offers hotels the opportunity to cement customer loyalty as demand rebounds — by demonstrating the ability to adhere to safety standards at scale. In response to consumer public health and safety concerns, travel providers have upgraded safety protocols and infused policies with more flexibility. Many of those changes appear likely to remain in place for the foreseeable future.

Read the full article here.

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