Outdoors is in, says a Tripadvisor/Phocuswright survey

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Skiers in Zermatt, Switzerland. The destination is enjoying the fastest recovery in Europe, based on October year-over-year accommodation clicks on Tripadvisor.
Skiers in Zermatt, Switzerland. The destination is enjoying the fastest recovery in Europe, based on October year-over-year accommodation clicks on Tripadvisor.

A new report released jointly by Tripadvisor and the travel industry research firm Phocuswright lends data to the much-reported trend of travelers favoring outdoor-oriented destinations during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The study was unveiled at the annual Phocuswright Conference, which is taking place virtually through today.

The report shows that respondents in all six countries in which the research was conducted are much more likely to favor a nature-related trip now than they were prepandemic. The survey of 2,400 people was conducted between Oct. 16 and Oct. 21 in the U.S., U.K., Singapore, Italy, Australia and Japan.

In the U.S., where that trend is sharpest, 62% of respondents said they have become more likely to favor an outdoor-oriented trip versus just 6% who are less likely. But even in Singapore, where the trend is least pronounced, 42% of respondents said they are more likely to take a nature-themed trip compared with 13% who are less likely.

Those evolving preferences also show up in Tripadvisor accommodation clicks. In Europe, the fastest-recovering destination based upon October year-over-year clicks was the posh Swiss ski destination of Zermatt. In the U.S., the outdoor-oriented markets of Sedona and Scottsdale, Ariz.; Key Largo and Key West, Fla.; and San Diego were the five fastest-recovering markets.

One piece of good news for the entire travel sector: 65% of respondents said they are still thinking about where they want to travel next despite the continuing uncertainty.

"[T]here are now good reasons to believe the recovery is on the horizon," the authors wrote. "Though consumer confidence remains fragile, the desire to travel remains strong for many people. Coupled with the news that efforts to develop a vaccine are progressing well, our industry has cause for hope again."

They added that the shifting interest toward outdoor-oriented destinations might outlast the pandemic.

"For an industry that had become increasingly attuned to the challenges posed by overtourism, particularly in major urban centers, the potential dispersal of tourism numbers and spending to a broader range of destinations could bring many positives," they wrote.

Meanwhile, at the Phocuswright conference, organizers brought together 16 executives from various sectors of the travel industry for a private, virtual session to discuss what the industry must do to be more resilient to future shocks.

The participants identified several keys areas to focus on, reported Sean Moffitt, co-founder of the consulting firm FutureProofing, during a subsequent public conference session.

Moffitt, who, facilitated the private conversation, said that executives agreed on the following priorities:

• Best health and safety practices must be executed consistently.

• Frictionless travel technology, including development of a virtual health passports, should be a focus.

• A go-to source for travel industry information, similar to the role Johns Hopkins University has played for the U.S. health industry during the Covid-19 crisis, should be developed.

• Efforts should be made toward industrywide collaboration on fighting climate change and toward industrywide communication related to customer confidence.

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