Flywire Survey Reveals Consumers Upbeat About Travel Post COVID-19

Boston, US and London, UK, June 16, 2020 — Flywire, a high-growth vertical payments company, today released new research that reveals very strong consumer demand for travel post coronavirus crisis. The interactive report, Bouncing Back: Consumer Views on Traveling Again, is based on an independent survey of adult leisure travelers from the United States, Canada, United Kingdom and Japan. The research looks at the impact of the coronavirus crisis on consumer travel plans and their expectations of travel providers to encourage more travel.

Few industries have been hurt by the coronavirus crisis as much as travel. Worldwide GDP loss could be as much as $2.7 trillion in 2020 according to the World Travel & Tourism Council. Direct travel spending in the U.S. alone is expected to decline by $519 billion. The impact is being felt at every level of the industry—from the largest online travel agencies to individual tour operators and the local ecosystems that support them.

Despite a bleak financial outlook, travelers are optimistic about the industry, according to Flywire’s new survey. This suggests a resurgence of the industry when travel options return; 93% of respondents are confident the industry will still be here after the pandemic is over and 69% plan to travel again when it does. For 74%, just thinking of traveling again while they are self-isolating is keeping them going.

“The economic loss combined with the lack of clear guidelines as to when consumers can travel freely again puts a lot of stress both on travel providers and the consumers they serve,” said Colin Smyth, senior director of Travel & Commercial segments at Flywire. “It’s also impacting consumers significantly. In times like these, people crave a break from their normal routine; they are looking for new challenges and action-packed adventures. These are experiences uniquely offered through travel.”

Additional findings from the report include:

Consumers are ready to spend on travel again.

Over half of the travelers surveyed say they will spend the same on travel for the remainder of this year/next year as they did last year while one in five will increase their budget. 55% plan to stay in their own country for their first trips. The types of vacations planned include the beach (38%), visiting family and friends (36%) and city vacations (23%).

Adventure travelers are looking for more adventure.

Of those consumers who have traveled for adventure in the past 12 months, nearly half say their first trip will be another adventure experience. Specific preferences vary widely—from exotic (13%), camping (13%), hiking (11%) and general adventure (7%) to skiing (4%), safari (3%) and biking (1%).

The payment experience matters to consumers.

88% of those surveyed said ease of payment is important to their overall travel experience with almost half (48%) saying it is very important. 66% said that the payment experience impacts their choice of travel agent or tour operator. This suggests that ensuring a seamless payment experience can directly impact revenue for travel agents and operators as they try to bounce back.

Travel correlates closely to well-being.

73% of travelers across all countries had a negative feeling as a result of not being able to travel, and 70% said not traveling means they are not able to make new and/or special memories. Being stuck at home is taking an emotional toll. Over one-third (35%) of consumers surveyed said not traveling now makes them feel sad and/or depressed while one-quarter said it makes them feel isolated and/or anxious.

On the positive side, over four in five (82%) said traveling is a way to calm their soul and 72% say the opportunity to travel again gives them something to look forward to.

Consumers are pleased with the travel industry’s response, but they also expect more.

The coronavirus crisis caused an unprecedented amount of disruption to travel plans and it impacted both providers and consumers. Overall, consumers feel the industry has responded well with over three quarters (77%) saying that the industry is doing a great job considering the circumstances. On the flip side, 88% of those surveyed said the travel industry needs to be more flexible in dealing with changes and cancellations. Hotels received the highest grades for their response while cruises and airlines were viewed as the least responsive.

The impact of the crisis was felt in all four of the countries surveyed.

A similar percentage of travelers were forced to cancel or change their travel plans as a result of the crisis, but there were some important differences by country in their attitudes about the industry and their plans to travel:

  • US travelers are the most bullish about the travel industry and the most ready to travel again.
  • UK travelers will wait a bit longer to travel again, but when they do, 80% plan to spend the same or more as they did in the last 12 months.
  • Canadians are the most conservative when it comes to expected travel spend vs. the previous year but for those that plan to travel, adventure will be high on their list.
  • Japanese travelers are the least ready to travel again, but still plan to spend the same or more vs. the previous year.

“The travel industry has bounced back very well from previous crises,” added Smyth. “This time doesn’t have to be any different as evidenced by consumers’ stated willingness to spend on travel again. At the same time, it’s important for the industry to listen to their customers. As operators and providers plan their comeback, this new research provides important insights into how they can meet consumers’ pent-up demand and revitalize their businesses.”

The complete interactive report Bouncing Back: Consumer Views on Traveling Again is available here.

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