With over a year of COVID in the rear-view mirror, the world has had a lot of time to adjust to a modified way of life. But one area of continued pessimism and uncertainty is travel.
The travel industry was hit harder than most categories when the pandemic took hold, and recovery has been extremely slow. Even 12 months into the pandemic, travel industry websites are still collectively seeing 23 percent fewer visits than in January 2020.
No travel category was spared by COVID. Online visitation to travel sites plummeted in March and April 2020 and, for the most part, have yet to see visitation reach pre-COVID levels. One bright spot, however, has been the Hotel & Vacation Rental category which actually saw 14 percent more visits in March 2021 than in January 2020 – the only travel category to see growth over that timeframe. If we dig a little deeper, though, you’ll see it’s not the supplier hotel brands or the OTAs fueling this growth. It’s vacation rentals. Last summer travelers appeared to be more comfortable staying in vacation rental properties vs. hotels, and this trend only accelerated in Q1 2021.
Thankfully, March 2021 is looking like a major turning point for the entire travel industry, not just rentals. While the pandemic is far from over, the rate of vaccinations continues to increase and people are traveling again. TSA-reported numbers show that the volume of people moving through airports is still well short of 2019 levels, but there has been a notable increase in travelers since early February 2021.
As life slowly swings back to pre-COVID normality, we will continue to monitor online consumer behavior and report what we see as we approach summer time.