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What’s ‘Driving’ Holiday Travel Trends?

Recent Surveys Bring To Light Industry Challenges As Thanksgiving Approaches

By Dennis Nessler | November 17, 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%).


Dennis Nessler

Dennis Nessler is Editor-in-Chief of Hotel Interactive, parent company of Hotel Community Forum. Nessler brings more than 28 years of editorial experience to his position, including some 17 years in the hospitality industry. As part of his duties, Nessler not only 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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