Travel has changed significantly in 2020, there's no denying. Some subsets of the industry are flourishing while others whither on the vine. It's no mystery as to why, but some of the details of the how are starting to become more clear as we head into the fall and winter seasons.
Back in March 2020 when the United States first began locking down, a lot of companies did research into the topic of how the Travel industry might be affected in broad strokes. Looking at both angles, some studied the way international travel restrictions affected the spread of viruses, while others studied the effects travel restrictions would have on the industry itself.
Around the same time we were contacted by Twiddy, a vacation rentals company on the Outer Banks of North Carolina who had conducted a large-scale survey of Americans to assess how the shifting public mindset might affect the way people choose where, and how, they vacation over the summer.
They shared their data, showing interesting if not somewhat predictable results, including:
36% of people saying they would stay in their own state, and only 7% saying they would see other parts of the world given the opportunity
71% of people were sure they would only travel by car for their summer vacation
Road trips at the time were the top choice for type of travel, followed closely by beach vacations
Hotels still outpaced vacation rental homes as the top choice for where to stay
We caught up with the Director of Marketing at Twiddy & Company, Shelley Tolbert, to check in on the state of things after what has to have been a crazy summer. Here are some highlights from our conversation that help illuminate the current state of the American traveler's mindset.
Q: When asked what affect the lockdown had on their business Shelley replied:
A: "Well we're on the Outer Banks, which is a set of barrier islands off of the Atlantic coast, south of NYC. We had a full lockdown for an extended period which bled into our early high season bookings, but when the lockdown was removed we found ourselves in one of the least affected parts of the country (with respect to virus cases), and the bookings started pouring in like crazy."
Q: Did you find your demographics shifting significantly when bookings reopened?
A: "While there may have been some shifts, in that we often attract vacationers from the midwest and inland southern states who want ocean views, and actually a fair amount of families from Canada, most of our bookings have been and remain visitors who choose to drive to the Outer Banks, so that hasn't shifted a lot."
Q: Do you think the summer of 2020 has been a net negative or net positive for the specific industry of vacation home rentals, in comparison to, say, hotels?
A: "I think we've benefitted from the fact that we and our guests can control their environment more completely in a vacation home, as opposed to a Hotel. I think initially, as our survey showed, people had a lot of faith in large hotel chains maintaining particularly high standards for cleanliness, but as time has moved forward people have lost a little bit of that faith, and want to take things back under their own control, so it's been a net positive for our subsection of the industry."
"Beyond that, the kind of vacation homes we rent are usually multi-family, large homes with room for Grandma, Grandpa, and all of the grandkids, so again, we kind of already catered to the demographic of people who want to choose exactly who they want under the same roof with them on vacation, and that's been a large reason people have chosen rental homes over other accommodation types this year."
Q: Do you think there might be long term residual effects from the shift in travel behaviour we've encountered in 2020?
A: "It's hard to tell - maybe the world will be thirsty for international travel when borders start opening, or maybe the mindset of staying close to home will linger for an extended period. We're already seeing advance booking numbers for 2021 outpacing any previous year, and so there will at least be a medium-term effect. As for the long term, it's a guessing game, we're just happy to be able to introduce so many new people to the beauty of the Outer Banks, and we hope they keep coming back!"