Surveying The Situation

By Dennis Nessler | November 24, 2021

As we get ready to head into the holiday season, there are a number of challenges facing the lodging industry recovery, not the least of which is rising gas prices impacting drive-to destinations, as well as continuing concerns about COVID variants. A pair of recent consumer surveys confirmed some of these challenges while offering somewhat differing results.

According to a new national survey commissioned by the AH&LA and conducted by Morning Consult of more than 2,000 consumers, a mere 29% of Americans are likely to travel for Thanksgiving and 33% are likely to travel for Christmas. While this represents an uptick from last year when those numbers were 21% and 24%, respectively, it’s still a disappointing figure.

In addition, 52% of Americans say they plan to take fewer trips and 53% plan to take shorter trips due to rising gas prices. Furthermore, leisure travelers are making several adjustments to their travel plans based on the current state of the pandemic, including only traveling within driving distance (58%), taking fewer trips (48%), and taking shorter trips (46%).

“While vaccines have helped travelers feel more comfortable, rising gas prices and continued concerns about the pandemic are making many Americans hesitant to travel during the holidays. Despite a slight expected uptick in holiday travel this year, hotels will continue to face economic fallout from the pandemic, underscoring the need for targeted federal relief, such as the Save Hotel Jobs Act, to support the industry and its workforce until travel fully returns,” stated American Hotel & Lodging Association President and CEO Chip Rogers.

Meanwhile, Motel 6 yesterday released its fourth annual holiday survey, revealing that nearly 70 percent of those planning to travel for the holidays this year will be doing road trips to reach their destination.

The poll also surveyed over 2,000 individuals and found that 82% believe it is important to spend time with loved ones, and between Thanksgiving and New Year’s, the average traveler will be journeying a total of over 600 miles. Of those planning to travel this year, one in three (32%) stayed home last year.

The Motel 6 survey provided some other insights on travel sentiment noting that American holiday travelers are hopeful for a more peaceful experience this year, with nearly three-quarters (67%) of respondents anticipating their holiday trips to be more relaxing in 2021 after people had to change up their holiday plans last year.

Two-thirds of survey respondents plan to travel with their immediate family this holiday season, and nearly two in five (38%) will be bringing along their pets. In particular, they’re most excited to reconnect with their siblings (46%), parents (45%) and extended family (42%).

Finally, on a longer term basis while business travel recovery in 2021 proceeded at a slower pace than expected from a year ago, global business travel spending is expected to surge in 2022 with full recovery expected in 2024. This is according to the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA), which last week released the results of its latest business travel index—the BTIOutlook.

The report provides a detailed analysis of business travel in 2021 with projections for 2022 and beyond, including post-COVID-19 recovery forecasts. The BTI Outlook is an annual study of business travel spending and growth covering 73 countries across 44 industries.

Forecasts and analysis highlights:

  • Global business travel activity has begun its rebound from the sharp downturn brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. After declining 53.8% in 2020 to $661 billion, global expenditures are expected to have rebounded 14% in 2021 to $754 billion. This was more slowly than forecasted in GBTA’s previous BTI Outlook report issued in February of this year.
  • Despite recovery setbacks in 2021, a year-over-year surge of 38% is expected in 2022 as recovery and pent-up demand kicks into a higher gear, bringing global business travel spending back to more than $1 trillion.
  • Recovery will continue into 2023, with global spending rising 23% year-over-year as even more international and group travel comes back online.
  • By 2024, global business travel is forecast to have made a full recovery, ending the year at $1.48 trillion or just above the 2019 pre-pandemic spend of $1.4 trillion.
  • In 2025, global business travel growth is forecast to slow to 4.3%–just below the 10-year average growth rate of 5.1% coming into 2020–ending the year at a forecasted $1.5 trillion.

Furthermore, according to the survey the global business travel recovery that began in late 2020 hit a fair number of bumps in 2021. Pandemic surges, variant introductions, uneven vaccination rates and mounting supply chain challenges all took their toll on previously forecast growth expectations.

North America led the recovery, the U.S. in particular, rebounding 27% in 2021. Business travel markets in Latin America, Middle East and Africa (MEA) and Asia-Pacific (APAC) all picked up 15% to 20% growth in 2021.



Dennis Nessler

Dennis Nessler brings more than 28 years of editorial experience, including some 17 years in the hospitality industry. He covers the industry editorially but moderates various high-level panel sessions at hospitality events and frequently conducts one-on-one interviews with C-level executives.

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