Fear of COVID-19 infection or quarantine as a primary concern plunged 37% among travelers, as their confidence has grown significantly since the pandemic was declared. These results reflect a key finding from the spring 2021 Traveler Sentiment and Safety Survey.

In April 2021, 78% of respondents are “much less” or “less” concerned about travel safety in 2021 with 22% answering they are “more” or “much more” concerned. 

Less COVID-19, More Accidents and Civil Unrest

In January 2020 pre-coronavirus, only 35% of travelers were concerned about travel safety. Trip worries included health (36%), terrorism (34%), street crime (13%), traffic (8%) and civil unrest (5%).

In January 2021 those travel safety concerns turned primarily to health, garnering the concern of 54% of travelers. Their worries one year later are overwhelmingly related to the coronavirus, with 41% fearing being quarantined or not being able to return home due to border closings. An additional 29% worry about being infected with the coronavirus and 18% worry about trip cancellation.

In April 2021, coronavirus fears are still high (44%) but other non-pandemic travel concerns have moved higher up the list:

  • 16% are worried about having an accident (up from 5%)
  • 15% are worried about civil unrest (up from 3%)

No matter the concern, it is not stopping travel. Domestic trips are continuing with caution and international trips are being planned now for later dates.

“Travelers are twice as likely to plan international trips within the next six months as they were in September 2020,” said Dan Richards, Global Rescue CEO. “Nearly three-quarters of surveyed travelers have already taken a domestic trip or are planning to take one before July.” 

Book Now Trend

A combination of availability and uncertainty is driving a trend for “now” travel.

“The trend is definitely new since COVID-19,” said Mimi Lichtenstein, founder and custom travel advisor of Truvay Travel  and Global Rescue Safe Travel partner. “It’s a combination of so much uncertainty and availability. Normally, places might be booked up — and some still are booking up, especially in the U.S. during prime travel dates — but many more are available.”

Coronavirus changed consumer’s travel behavior in 2020, with trips being booked at the last minute more than ever before. Forty percent of U.S. travelers, during both the Fourth of July and Labor Day holiday weekends, booked less than seven days before their intended travel date and 65% booked within 14 days. The book-travel-now trend continued until the end of 2020 with holiday travel.

The introduction of vaccines prompted travelers to book now for any trip in the future. The spring survey found 14% of respondents have already traveled internationally, while 46% will take an international trip in 2021 and 17% are waiting until 2022.

“If you want primetime in a prime destination, you want to book now,” says Lichtenstein, who is currently planning summer travel for Alaska for herself and summer itineraries for her clients. “I am talking with clients about 2022 right now.” 

“People are looking to schedule 2022/23 trips, which are booking up fast. Availability for certain destinations is already very limited,” said Kimberly Franke, a travel specialist with Kanna Travel Services, a full-service travel agency in Bozeman, Montana and Global Rescue Safe Travel Partner. “We are seeing 2023 travel fill up with people booking in advance to get the best places and spots available before they fill with the backlog of travelers.”

Next Steps

As the travel industry adapted to a new normal, consumer confidence continued to build. But safety will stay the paramount theme of any future travel plan.

“All clients are asking the same questions about coronavirus rules and restrictions, as well as the safety of a particular destination,” said Vitalij Kovalysin, director of ELVIT LTD, a property and lifestyle concierge based in the United Kingdom and Global Rescue Safe Travel partner. “Clients do not want to take unnecessary risks.”

The next step to increasing traveler confidence: Richards is encouraging government health officials to develop capabilities to identify, detect and respond to COVID-19 and emerging pathogenic threats.

“By leveraging improvements in technology, including tools that detect active infection of COVID-19 and emerging diseases on exhaled breath, we can effectively recover from and prevent disease spread, while boosting and protecting the travel and hospitality industry,” said Richards, who also serves on the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Commerce.  

The spring 2021 Traveler Sentiment and Safety survey was conducted April 21-26, 2021. Results reflect responses from 1,700 current and former members.