American hoteliers can use this information to their advantage by marketing their services differently this summer.

Since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic in March 2020, many have said that the virus will have lasting effects on the travel industry. Some believe that travel will never be the same again, even following the pandemic.

This lasting change is evident in recent actions taken by large corporations central to the travel industry. For instance, major airlines quickly adopted ‘relax seating’ in late spring, meaning that they would make middle seats unavailable for passengers.

Significant changes to daily operations are not exclusively necessary for the airline industry. Hoteliers will be responsible for accommodating the changing expectations of customers to promote safety and their personal comfort while traveling.

This article will spotlight three major trends shaping travelers’ plans during the COVID-19 pandemic, so hoteliers are best positioned to adapt their services to effectively meet their needs.

People Are Uncomfortable with Flying

While this may not come as a surprise as daily new cases surge, many would-be travelers in the United States aren’t ready to fly again.

According to a July 2020 study, 67% of Americans are uncomfortable with air travel this summer.

Extreme discomfort increases as the age of travelers increases, indicating that those with a greater likelihood of contracting a severe case of COVID-19 are less likely to risk infection by flying.

This sentiment also demonstrates that people feel that they’re more likely to be exposed to the virus in an airport or on a plane, despite the safety precautions airlines are taking.

Business travel, in particular, has significantly decreased since COVID-19 was declared a pandemic.

At this point, much of the country continues to work from home and utilizes virtual meetings through platforms like Zoom to communicate both internally and externally.

Given the convenience, travel restrictions, and importance of employee safety, companies are no longer enthusiastic about business travel.

Hoteliers should expect to service fewer business travelers than usually in the near future and create plans with that fact in mind. This means that hotels should direct their attention to meeting the needs of leisure and family travelers.

Regional COVID-19 Hotspots Increase Travel Discomfort

It’s recommended that hoteliers pay attention to regional road trip travelers, but it’s also important to be sensitive to hotspots and surges in daily regional COVID-19 cases.

The Manifest found that residents of regions with increasing daily cases exhibited extreme discomfort with travel during the pandemic.

For instance, 67% of people in the Northeast region were very uncomfortable traveling in May 2020. Because of the high volume of new cases and deaths in the Northeast that occurred in the spring, people residing in the region may have been deterred from traveling for leisure.

However, once several states in the Northeast were able to ‘flatten the curve’ and stabilize the amount of new positive cases each day, extreme levels of travel discomfort decreased in the region. In July 2020, only 51% of people admitted the same high level of discomfort that they felt in May 2020.

Conversely, increases in new daily cases in the South and West regions have caused increased discomfort from May to July 2020.

Hoteliers should be cognizant of the state of their region’s health and approach marketing and service with transparency, care, and sensitivity.

Not Everyone is Canceling all Their Travel Plans

While many people are nervous about traveling by plane or making summer plans while residing in a regional hotspot, some Americans are still searching for safe ways for summer travel.

Many leisure travelers take advantage of the warm summer months to explore new places and spend colder months planning and anticipating their trips. This year, vacation planners were met with cancelations, requiring them to adjust their plans.

Discomfort with air travel is prevalent, but only 23% of people canceled all of their remaining 2020 travel plans.  

Despite their strong concerns about air travel, Americans may be replacing their planned extended trips that required flying with more socially-distant road trips.

While flight volume remains at considerable lows, road traffic has picked back up to pre-pandemic levels. In fact, traffic over the July 4 holiday exceeded pre-pandemic road traffic by about 12%. That’s only 9% fewer road trips than last summer’s July 4 weekend.

American hoteliers can use this information to their advantage by marketing their services differently this summer.

If you normally host those from around the world and country, consider taking a more regional approach. You’re more likely to experience success during these difficult times if you’re sensitive to your changing audiences. Since you’re more likely to be serving road trippers this summer, make sure your services and advertising reflect that.

While many Americans will be hesitant to book flights for the summer, that doesn’t mean hoteliers can’t capitalize on the increases in road travel by focusing their services more regionally for the time being.

People are Changing the Way They Travel During COVID-19

Since the pandemic began, Americans have been more hesitant to make and keep travel plans. Hoteliers should understand that travel concerns are most severe in regional hotspots and for those requiring air travel to arrive that their destination.

While many exhibit discomfort with travel currently, many Americans are seeking out socially-distanced travel opportunities through road trips and shorter day trips. Hoteliers should appeal to these family and leisure travelers this summer to optimize their success.

Sydney Wess is a content writer & editor for Clutch, focusing on retail and business services.