September 16, 2020

Travelers Cite Increasing Sense of Safety in Spite of COVID-19 Trends

Even as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt a return to workplaces, schools and sports arenas across the country, travelers report an increasing sense of safety with most types of travel activities in the most recent MMGY Travel Safety Barometer report. While barometer scores remain depressed overall compared to what we would typically expect in “normal times,” travelers seem to be adapting to the risks and safety scores continue to tick upwards.

Key Findings from Wave VIII of the study:

  1. Respondents’ likelihood to take a domestic leisure trip during the next six months is the highest it has been since the survey’s inception in mid-March, with 42% reporting they are at least somewhat likely to do so, up from 38% in the previous survey wave.

  2. The likelihood to take a domestic business trip during the next six months also increased, rising from 31% last month to 35% in the most recent results. Importantly, the percentage of business travelers who said they were not at all likely to take a business trip during the next six months declined significantly from 35% to just 25% this month.

  3. Even respondents’ likelihood to take an international business trip during the next six months increased over last month, reversing a two-month downward trend.

  4. Respondents’ likelihood to travel by personal car during the next six months was the highest it’s been since the pandemic started, with three-quarters (75%) indicating they plan to do so. Almost 2 in 5 (39%) are willing to drive 300 miles or more (each way) for a leisure trip.

  5. The likelihood to participate in various travel activities during the next six months either remained flat or increased - an indication that travelers are beginning to adapt to a “new normal” even as their concern about contracting the virus remains high.

  6. Great travel deals may find a more receptive audience amongst travelers in the coming months. While containing the spread of COVID-19 continues to be the consideration that will have greatest influence on future travel decisions, its impact declined relative to last month’s survey with 51% of respondents rating it at least somewhat impactful (down from 58% last month). At the same time, the influence of great travel deals increased from 30% last month to 33% in this most recent survey wave.

Travel Safety Barometer

With the exception of the Cruise Safety Barometer Score, all category barometer scores proved to be the highest we’ve observed since the pandemic started back in March. The Transportation Safety Barometer continues to lead the pack with a score of 65 (on a 1–100 scale), influenced largely by travelers’ strong sense of relative safety in traveling by personal vehicle.



Transportation Safety Score Continues to Rise.

While Americans continue to feel safest traveling in their own cars, they’re also starting to feel somewhat more confident traveling by air and even by train/rail. The Safety Barometer Score for domestic air travel increased again to 41 (0–100 scale), which is up from 38 last month – a gain of 11 points since early May. The Barometer Score for travel by train/rail jumped 5 points from last month. Both of these scores are the highest recorded since the beginning of the pandemic.


Types of Travel

Lodging Safety Score Hits 50 for First Time.

Travelers rated their perception of lodging safety a 50 on a 0–100 scale this month – the highest score reported since the outbreak and almost double the lodging score from April when it rated a lowly 27. The perception of safety improved again for both hotel/resort lodging as well for vacation rentals, and both lodging options are now at parity at 50 points. It’s possible the cleanliness campaigns favored by major hoteliers are having their desired impact.


Hotels & Resorts

After Months of Stagnation, Business Travel Safety Score Shows Improvement.

In a good sign for the travel industry, travelers’ perceptions of safety increased this month for both attending an off-site business meeting and attending a conference or convention. These scores have been relatively flat now for months as business travelers seem to be comfortable erring on the side of caution while relying heavily upon videoconference technology for their communications needs. However, consistent with other travel segments, these scores are now the highest we’ve recorded for this category since we started calculating the barometer scores in March.

Business Travel

Meetings & Conventions

Travelers Continue to Favor Outdoor Travel Activities.

In the most recent report, travelers continue to report feeling safer taking part in outdoor travel activities such as going to a park (61) or to the beach (54). Indoor activities, including attending an indoor concert or festival (27) or an indoor sporting event (29), continue to be perceived as riskier than outdoor activities.

Travel Activities

Travelers Are Still Concerned About Cruise Safety.

The perception of cruise safety remains the lowest of all measured travel activities, and it is one of the few travel activity barometers that did not increase in the most recent report. The cruise industry will need to clearly and effectively communicate its specific actions and revised safety protocols to start to reassure travelers that it’s safe to re-enter the waters.

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