CNBCEager to travel, Americans book Sun Belt beach, city stays as pandemic fades

June 13, 20210
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Miami Beach, Florida

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Interest in travel is picking up as the pandemic winds down, and cooped-up Americans are itching to hit the road again, two recent surveys have found.

Travelers are thinking about booking trips to warm and sunny domestic climes — be they Sun Belt cities or beaches and national parks — and are also more open to planning trips abroad.

Separate surveys from websites Booking.com and Skyscanner, which partnered with customer engagement platform Braze and app intelligence provider Apptopia, found that Las Vegas, Miami and Orlando, Florida, are among the top destinations searched online by potential U.S. vacationers.

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Mark Crossey, U.S. travel expert at Skyscanner, said Americans are looking for short, domestic trips — 87% of trips booked at the site are for a week or less — and are favoring spots with fewer pandemic-related restrictions.

“Both Florida and Nevada no longer have travel restrictions for visitors and California anticipates its restrictions will soon lift, too,” he said. “All of these destinations enjoy warm summer weather and have plenty of activities for people to enjoy after a quiet year.”

Crossey said he expects to see Americans continue to travel in their own backyard throughout 2021, and anticipates “a resurgence in foreign trips as soon as international travel restrictions relax and popular European destinations reopen.” 

The top five destinations from Skyscanner, Braze and Apptopia are, in fact, all cities: Las Vegas, Orlando, Los Angeles, Miami and New York. All but L.A. and the Big Apple, meanwhile, made Booking.com’s own list of top 10 destination searches for summer travel, which also featured seaside spots such as Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and Ocean City, Maryland. The site’s survey found 61% of people plan to hit the sand at some point this summer.

Booking.com’s Top 10 Summer Travel Searches

Here are the top 10 searched domestic U.S. destinations in May for check-in in July and August:

  • Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
  • Las Vegas, Nevada
  • Orlando, Florida
  • Destin, Florida
  • Panama City Beach, Florida
  • Ocean City, Maryland
  • Miami Beach, Florida
  • Miami, Florida
  • Key West, Florida
  • Virginia Beach, Virginia

Source: Booking.com

“New Booking.com research shows that Americans are looking to get away this summer, and more specifically, a majority (62%) say they are optimistic they’ll get to the beach when it is safe again to do so,” said Leslie Cafferty, senior vice president and head of global communications at Booking Holdings.

“With nearly 70% of Americans looking to travel closer to home, it’s no surprise that U.S. destinations like Myrtle Beach, Virginia Beach, Miami, Ocean City and Destin were among some of the top searched vacations on Booking.com in May for check-in dates within 90 days.”

Like Skyscanner, Booking.com also found that Americans now favor shorter trips, with 54% of survey respondents saying they’d prefer more short breaks to fewer longer stays. Sixty-one percent also said travel is “critical to their emotional well-being,” according to Booking.com.

That jibes with findings from the Skyscanner-Braze-Apptopia survey, which queried not only Americans but people in the Europe-Middle East-Africa and Asia-Pacific regions, as well. Sarah Spivey, chief marketing officer at Braze, said that prior to Covid, 75% of U.S. travelers said vacations were important to them.

“This level of importance prior to the pandemic reflects U.S. consumers’ desire to travel as restrictions are lifted,” she said, noting that 33% of Americans feel comfortable traveling, compared to 13% of Asia-Pacific and 20% of Europe-Middle East-Africa residents. “While consumers from other regions appear more cautious, Americans are eager to travel.”

Spivey said that increased willingness also shows up in greater online travel agency app usage in the U.S. compared to other major markets. Use of such smartphone apps is up 41% compared to pre-Covid times.

“The contrast between U.S. [app] usage to that of Europe and Asia can be attributed to a greater willingness to travel overall, and subsequently a greater recovery in its travel industry,” she said.

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