In September 2021, we surveyed 1,000 people from the UK to understand their attitudes towards travel during the COVID 19 pandemic. The sample was representative of the general population on the basis of age, sex and ethnicity. We also collected information on political preferences and household income for analysis purposes.
In the last 18 months, the travel industry has experienced extensive disruption due to COVID 19. The UK government has also been frequently updating its travel guidelines throughout the pandemic. We wanted to assess how this has affected travel confidence and to explore the future of travel.
Looking back at 2021 so far
2021 has been a difficult year for travel providers and holidaymakers, with periodic lockdowns in the UK putting a pause on plans. The data shows only 8% of people travelled internationally and 56% travelled within the UK. 38% of people did not travel for leisure at all.
If we compare this to pre-pandemic travel habits and plans for 2022, we clearly see the impact of the pandemic. In 2022, the appetite for international travel appears to be back to pre-pandemic levels. We also see that only 14% of people don't plan to travel, which is a significant drop from the 24% who didn't travel regularly pre-pandemic. It appears the trend in 2022 will be more people wanting to see more of the world.
When we divide the 2021 results by household income, it's clear this is a major factor in whether people travel. The results also showed younger individuals were more likely to have travelled internationally. This could show restlessness in young people, who feel like they are missing out on new experiences.
Despite the various lockdowns, there have been periods in which people have travelled. So we wanted to understand how comfortable people have felt travelling in 2021. The graph below shows the majority of people felt somewhat comfortable to extremely comfortable. Good news for the travel industry.
The Future of Travel
In the second part of the study, we asked people “Do you plan to travel before the end of 2022?”. The results showed that 50% plan to travel internationally before the end of 2022, which is a big increase from 2020 and 2021.
We asked all those who plan to travel “Have you already booked your trip?” 77% of respondents haven’t yet booked. A possible symptom of shifting regulations, with people feeling less confident booking far in advance. The data would suggest that the travel industry can expect a surge in bookings over the coming months.
In the graph above, we see some interesting results when we split the responses by age. There appears to be a direct relationship between age and how people plan to travel. Younger individuals are far more inclined to travel internationally. On the flip side, older individuals prefer to stick to domestic trips.
To understand travel confidence in more depth, we asked what factors influenced how comfortable people feel travelling internationally. It became clear that it was a combination of things. Cost is still the foremost factor, but we can also see the impact of the pandemic. 50% of people said they will feel more comfortable when we have reached a point of herd immunity. One factor that we neglected to include, but was raised by many respondents was COVID 19 related travel admin. The extensive documentation and testing required appear to be damaging confidence.
The UK Government publishes a travel advisory service online. The service has released regular updates in response to the pandemic. This included organising countries into a red, amber, green list to identify which countries are safe for travel.* Depending on your destination and vaccination status, you need to take various measures such as testing and isolation.
*Note the government has now simplified this system.
We asked “How clear do you find UK Government guidance on international travel restrictions?”. Only 4% of people said they found the guidance completely clear, with 21% not finding it clear at all.
Despite only 4% of people finding the guidance completely clear. 37% said that the guidance significantly affected their decision to travel. When we split this by age, we see that individuals over the age of 48 appear to consider the guidance less important than younger respondents. This may be because they are more inclined to travel domestically.
Finally, we asked respondents whether COVID 19 Passes should be required to travel. This would involve participants having to prove their vaccination status. A slight majority (55%) believe they shouldn’t be required for domestic travel. But, 76% believe they should be required for international travel, perceiving the risk to be higher.
Thanks for reading! If you'd like to run your own analysis, you can find the raw data for this study here.
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