US Summer Travel Surge Will Continue for the Rest of the Year According to Oliver Wyman

Friday, July 30th, 2021

Almost 70% of global consumers plan to travel domestically within the next six months, yet less than ten percent have booked their trips according to a new survey from consulting firm Oliver Wyman.

"The summer travel surge is just the beginning of a recovery that seemed almost impossible a little more than a year ago," said Jessica Stansbury, a partner with Oliver Wyman. "We expect to see a continued desire for leisure travel through the end of the year and travel providers should anticipate a sustained leisure recovery with strong bookings continuing at least through the end of the year."

Leisure travel

  • We predict that traffic out of US airports will match and may even exceed the rate of pre-pandemic travel sometime in early 2022.

  • The increase in US leisure travel will continue throughout the end of the year and we anticipate significant travel during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

  • International leisure travel continues to be the most impacted by the pandemic, as travelers opt to stay closer to home. US travelers are more than twice as likely to select a domestic destination for their next leisure trip (67% vs. 27% international).

Business travel

  • Business travelers are optimistic about the return of corporate trips. Globally, about 75% of business travelers expect to travel the same as or more than they did pre-pandemic. In the US, nearly 80% of US business travelers plan to book travel in the next three months.

  • There will be a "catch up" in business travel and bookings will spike significantly in the near-term. However, changing company policies and the effectiveness of teleconferencing may reduce the long-term need for business travel.

  • Business travel will also differ greatly by country. For example, business travelers in the US, China, and Australia are primed to travel significantly more than they did pre-COVID, while Europeans still plan to travel less than before the pandemic.

"Business travel is being driven by fear of missing out," said Bruce Spear, a partner with Oliver Wyman. "The US economy is so hot right now that some executives may feel short term pressure to catch up on business meetings with colleagues and clients."

Key factors for travel

  • Price is the most important criteria in travel decisions and has been throughout the pandemic, with 66% of global travelers ranking price as one of their top three factors to purchase a flight. This is consistent with the US, where the number is also 66%.

  • Cleanliness is becoming a less important factor in travel decisions as we get further away from the height of the pandemic.

  • While more airlines promote their environmental sustainability measures, only 17% of consumers globally and 12% of US consumers consider this as a top three factor when deciding about one flight over another. Overall, environmental sustainability measures continue to rank last across all three surveys.

  • Globally almost 70% of travelers are willing to enroll in a digital identification program which would include vaccine status and other healthcare data. Vaccinated respondents are more willing to share their data, compared to unvaccinated travelers.

"The industry faces significant challenges, especially around the new Delta variant and a possible overall talent shortage, but demand for consumer travel will push the industry back sooner than we initially thought," said Bruno Despujol, a partner with Oliver Wyman.