Americans’ perceptions of travel safety hold steady despite US COVID-19 cases spike
According to the latest results of the Travel Safety Barometer (Wave VI), which measures the impact of COVID-19 on traveler perceptions of safety, the current surge in cases of the virus across the U.S. has not made Americans more fearful of becoming ill. It has also not impacted the number of respondents who plan to take a leisure trip within the next six months, which has held steady at 40% since early June.
While the travel industry still has a long road to recovery ahead, there are two areas where perceptions of safety are in fact rising. Americans’ confidence in the safety of domestic flights increased, as did positive perceptions of hotels, which may be due to the extensive measures hotels and airlines have taken to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. In mid-April, domestic flights had a Travel Safety Barometer score of just 22 on a 100-point scale. That score nearly doubled in July to 39. Hotels also had a small but significant increase in Wave 6 to 46 points, scoring the same as vacation rentals.
Apparently, the current headlines are not rattling American travelers, but these gains are fragile and could disappear if current COVID-19 hot spots can’t quickly flatten the curve or there are future outbreaks linked to leisure travel.
Scenes of crowded beaches, parks, and restaurants from the Independence Day holiday may have put a dent in the perceptions of how safe these activities are. Wave 6 respondents felt these activities were less safe than respondents found in Wave 5 conducted in early June.
The latest data also shows that business travel continues to suffer from poor perceptions of safety. Since June, travelers have rated the safety of an off-site business meeting at 38 on the 100-point scale, and the safety of attending a business conference or convention has hovered at or around 30. Both of these scores are quite low relative to other travel categories, with the conference and convention rating finishing on par with the perceived safety of attending an indoor sporting event.
The Travel Safety Barometer survey is conducted monthly among 1,200 U.S. residents who have taken an overnight trip for either business or leisure in the past 12 months. Wave 5 of the survey was conducted from May 29 – June 3, 2020, and Wave 6 was conducted June 29 – July 8, 2020.