Every day we hear crazy new theories on the spread of COVID-19, and how we can either avoid or get rid of it.

Everyone is desperate to get back to normal, and governments are starting to re-open their countries – or at least are making plans to.

Consumers are especially eager to take vacations after being hunkered down in quarantine for months – the question is, how do we know when it will be safe to travel again? Who can we trust to give us this information? What will the new “normal” of post-virus travel behaviors look like?

Feelings are mixed for when we’ll feel safe to travel.

Only 31% of consumers globally say they’ll trust their government’s advice on when it will be safe to travel again – with a third of frequent travelers agreeing.

Less than 20% of consumers in Brazil, France, Italy, Japan, Spain and USA say they’ll trust travel advice provided by their governments.

Meanwhile, in countries like Australia, India, Singapore and the UK, roughly 40% or more of consumers say they’ll trust government travel advice, with these numbers similar for frequent traveler audiences.

Travel confidence-boosting measures

In the Asia Pacific region, there are conflicting feelings between frequent travelers and other consumers on the reassurance countries re-opening their borders will give about future travel.

For example, frequent travelers in Australia, China, New Zealand and Singapore in particular are more likely to trust countries reopening borders as a sign that it is ok for travel to resume.

But consumers as a whole are perhaps more hesitant about trusting re-openings having seen COVID-19 hit the Asia Pacific region so severely in the beginning – making them more aware of the risks of another wave. This hesitance may also speak to general distrust of the government.

Younger audiences are weighing up their financial situation as a factor in when and how they’ll travel again post-quarantine. Nearly a third of frequent travelers globally between the ages of 25-44 said they’ll only consider traveling again once they feel secure in their job and finances.

Meanwhile, only 18% of frequent travelers aged 55-64 are concerned about finances in future travel planning.

Feelings of who we can trust for travel advice differ across age groups as well: 16-24 year-old frequent travelers are the most hesitant about trusting country re-openings when considering future travel decisions – with only a quarter saying countries re-opening their borders will give them future travel confidence.

Older audiences are more inclined to only make the decision to travel again when they feel it’s safe – with two thirds of frequent travelers aged 55-64 agreeing. 

Differences between age cohorts indicate that our past experiences with travel go a long way in shaping our sense of trust and tolerance for risk.

Attitudes seem to become more pronounced as people get older and accumulate a certain amount of intuitive decision-making ability that comes with time. 

Ultimately, our past experience with travel will be a factor in dictating when we feel comfortable travelling again and whose advice we’ll listen to to make that choice. 

Domestic alternatives and “staycations” are big on the radar.

While everyone is itching to get out of their homes after quarantine, consumers know in the post-Corona world they’ll have to travel smarter. For some, that means choosing to travel, but staying closer to home.

The global crisis has consumers saying they’ll take more trips within their own countries or local areas rather than abroad after the outbreak.

This is particularly the case for frequent travelers, who are 18% more likely to say they’ll take domestic vacations post-outbreak.

Turning to domestic vacations was also the top anticipated change in behavior for frequent travelers in Asia Pacific and Europe, with 32% of European and 38% of consumers in APAC saying this.

Post outbreak travel behaviors

We can clearly see divergent behavior between frequent travelers and the general internet population in these regions, however.

Among all APAC consumers, their top anticipated travel alternative was actually to have more staycations or trips in their local areas after the outbreak – with 36% of people saying this.

This further validates our understanding that people with more travel experience pre-outbreak are likely to be more comfortable venturing further afield versus the rest of their cohorts — and this certainly is something travel operators should consider as they work to revitalize travel post COVID-19. 

Other regional differences are important to consider when looking at what alternatives to normal travel people are considering. Making use of promotions or discounts more when booking vacations was the top choice in Latin America, for example, with frequent travelers in this region being 44% more likely than average to say they’ll be doing this. 

Promotions or travel discounts will become an even greater priority post-outbreak, with so many consumers having faced financial insecurity during this time. 

Advertising, promotions, and a helping hand during the crisis can keep travel brands top-of-mind.

The eventual reopening of travel begs the question: how can travel brands better appeal to their audiences in the post COVID-19 world? 

For many, it will mean having to keep advertising alive even as budgets are decimated. 55% of frequent travelers support brands running “normal” advertising during the outbreak, with 25-34 year-olds being most supportive of these normal ad campaigns. 

Meanwhile, over 84% of frequent travelers support brands running promotions/offers and offering flexible payment options during this time.

Approval of brand activities during the outbreak

And while 85% of 16-24 year-old frequent travelers approve of brands offering flexible payment terms, older audiences consider flexible payment less of a priority – further showing how younger audiences want to travel, but are more concerned about financial stability post-outbreak.

Though consumers will continue to prioritize brands and businesses that best meet their needs and those they are most familiar with, they also want to support brands that helped people during the crisis.

86% of frequent travelers approve of brands pledging money/aid/supplies to help people during the outbreak, with at least 85% of frequent travelers across age groups supporting these efforts. 

This period has shown brands’ true colors, with many choosing to help in some way – whether by donating money, or suspending normal production to help produce supplies for essential workers.

Going forward as a result of the crisis, consumers will not only be aware of brands that contribute to good causes, but will also want to better support those brands in particular.

Travel behaviors will be permanently impacted as a result of COVID-19, and we’ll each be forced to adopt a new “normal” once it’s safe to start travelling again.

However, chances are operators will see an eventual light at the end of the tunnel with demand for travel increasing due to people itching to get out of their homes after a difficult, stressful, and unprecedented period of isolation.

Brands and consumers alike will be actively redefining the travel industry over the next few months, or however long it takes to adopt a new post COVID-19 “normal”. 

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Written by

Emily is a Strategic Insights Analyst at GWI. She uses GWI data to understand consumers and strategize how brands can better reach their audiences. She also contributes to the Chart of the Week blog series, with a particular interest in social media and anthropology. Before joining GWI, Emily completed a degree in Economics and Global Studies at Colby College in Maine.

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