While the coronavirus' impact on the travel industry has been felt far and wide, there are some hopeful signs that the road ahead might be less bumpy.
That hope was evidenced in data Virtuoso collected from sales and traveler surveys and presented during the consortium's Virtuoso Travel Week. The event, usually a weeklong gathering of meetings and networking events in Las Vegas, went virtual for the first time this year.
"Let's be honest," said David Kolner, Virtuoso's senior vice president of strategy, who led the presentation, "we can't overlook the point that we've utterly missed our expectations for 2020. And while even a few months ago we had hoped everything would be returning to normal by now ... there are some signs of hope."
Virtuoso in June and July asked its travelers if they were ready to travel. Both months had similar results: The younger the traveler, the more likely they were to travel. For instance, in June's survey, 84.2% of travelers ages 18 to 25 said they were ready to travel again, compared with 5.3% who weren't and 10.5% who weren't sure. But among travelers 55 to 76, only 36.2% said they were ready to travel again, outpaced by the 53.7% who weren't (9.4% weren't sure).
For the most part, Kolner said, generation Z, millennials and Generation Xers are the most ready to get back to travel.
Clients of Virtuoso agencies are also changing the way they travel. Kolner said the number planning to stay closer to home has increased this year. According to Virtuoso's hotel booking data, in the second quarter 70% of bookings were to destinations less than 1,500 miles from the travelers' homes, compared with 58% in the same period of 2019.
Booking windows are shrinking, too. In the second quarter, 43% of bookings took place two weeks or less from the time of travel, compared with 37% in the second-quarter of 2019.
Virtuoso's hotel partners have the ability to pick three different attributes to describe their hotel. In the second quarter there have been marked upticks in bookings with hotels that have selected the attributes "adventure," "seclusion," "golf" and "beach."
Meanwhile, bookings at hotels with attributes like "city life" and "landmarks" have declined, likely due to closures in major cities, Kolner said.
"Now is a great time to learn more about your clients' passion points and start those conversations about what they want to do to travel now," Kolner said.
Looking ahead to the holiday season, a Virtuoso traveler survey in July found that 22% said they would consider traveling during the festive season but want to wait to see how conditions evolve and will plan or book closer in; 15% percent said they would consider making holiday travel plans now even if adjustments need to be made later. Sixteen percent said they won't travel over the holidays this year, even though they usually do travel during the period. (The remainder, 47%, said they typically don't travel during the holidays.)
So far, 2021 cruise sales are pacing just 6% below where they were in 2019, Kolner said. River cruise sales are up, and there is strong interest in ocean cruising on luxury and premium lines.