Tourism Matters to Montana
Tourism Matters to Montana


Source: U.S. Travel Association, COVID-19 Travel Industry Research

While the latest travel data reflects the dire situation that we face, it is very useful when speaking with Congress, the administration and government leaders about the urgent need to provide relief to our industry now. We also know that real-time insights are critical to detecting shifts in traveler behavior and sentiment so that you can plan appropriately for the future.

Weekly Analysis

Analysis by Tourism Economics shows a week-by-week outlook on travel spending in the U.S. The analysis also looks at regional and state-by-state breakdowns.

  • Travel spending continued its slide last week, and shrank by an additional 1%
    • In the week ending December 12, travel spending tallied just $10.8 billion—marking a new low since the week ending June 20—and reflected a 48% drop below last year's levels (a $10.2 billion loss)
    • The number of states and territories recording losses greater than 50% year-over-year (y/y) rose from 12 to 14, as travel spending contracted in both California and Connecticut
      • California’s travel economy deteriorated from -39% y/y at the end of November to -54% y/y last week due to rising COVID-19 cases and the re-implementation of lockdown measures
    • Since the beginning of March, the COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in over $500 billion in cumulative losses for the U.S. travel economy, equating to a daily loss of approximately $1.75 billion for the past nine-and-a-half months
    • The continual depressed level of travel spending has caused a loss of $64.4 billion in federal, state, and local tax revenue since March 1

Tracking Traveler Trends:

Road Travel: Arrivalist Trends Tracker

The Daily Travel Index from Arrivalist measures consumer road trips of 50 miles or more in all 50 U.S. states. It now provides year-over-year comparisons.

  • Road travel was 19% lower than the same period last year—putting this week in the top three worst performances within the past four months

Air Travel: Passenger Screenings at TSA

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) updates passenger screening numbers on a daily basis, providing a comparison to the same time last year.

  • TSA screenings continue to decline
    • After improving nearly every week since May—from lows of -96% (y/y) in April to -61% y/y around Thanksgiving—TSA screenings regressed over the past two weeks
    • The seven-day average of people screened last week (through Sunday, December 13) was just 691,000, 10% lower than the previous week
    • On a y/y basis, TSA screenings fell back to -68%, worse than any week since the end of September

Lodging: Hotel Occupancy data from STR

  • Total hotel occupancy in the U.S. was 38% last week, compared to 61% in the same period last year
    • Urban hotels suffered the most: 29% occupancy compared to 72% in the same period last year (-60% y/y)
    • Interstate hotels suffered the least: 40% occupancy last week compared to 48% in the same period last year (-17% y/y)
  • After improving through the summer (from -42% y/y in June to -28% y/y in September), hotel occupancy took a negative turn in the fall and was down 30% y/y in October and 35% y/y in November

NEW: Visitation Trends | U.S. Ski Destinations

In partnership with Rove Marketing and Uber Media, U.S. Travel’s exclusive dashboard monitors daily unique mobile devices across various points of interest at sample ski destinations in the U.S.

The new dashboard covers the 2020/21 ski season for over 20 ski destinations to analyze visitation trends based on the number of unique mobile devices at each ski resort. The dashboard also estimates distance traveled, origin markets, traveler vs local distinctions and includes a new demographic filter. The latest dashboard will help understand evolving winter travel trends and monitor recovery.

  • While still early, the 2020 ski season is off to a very positive start
  • Tourists made up of nearly two-thirds (65%) of visitation over the Thanksgiving holiday week, and more than two-thirds of visitors traveled more than 200 miles

Traveler and Consumer Sentiment Survey Results

Destination Analysts Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report, December 14, 2020

  • Anxieties about the coronavirus are severely impacting travel sentiment for the near-term
  • Americans’ travel mindset is now evenly split between readiness and hesitation with half of Americans needing a little or a lot more time to feel ready to travel
  • This week, 55% of Americans said they would feel guilty traveling right now and 50% have lost interest in traveling for the time being—last week only 43% felt this way
  • Nearly six in 10 (58%) feel travel should be limited to essential needs only and 55% agree they do not want travelers coming to their own communities right now
  • As a result, Americans are pushing out their travel intentions into at least Q2 of 2021
    • Two-thirds of Americans say the current pandemic situation makes them less likely to travel over the next three months
  • Yet, progress with the vaccines is appearing to have a positive impact.
    • 59% of Americans feel that the vaccine developments make them more optimistic about life returning to normal in the next six months, while 51% say the vaccines makes them more optimistic they can travel safely by then
  • As Americans continue to exhibit receptivity to travel marketing for future trips, half of American travelers expressed excitement about taking a getaway soon
    • Of those who have recently recalled seeing a travel advertisement, 57% report the ad made them feel happy or very happy
  • Looking at the recovery of the meetings industry, the percent of American travelers who have at least tentative plans to attend a convention or conference in the next year has risen to 24% from 16% two months ago

Business Travel and Meetings Expected to Surge the Second Half of 2021Global Business Travel Association,December 14, 2020

  • Three out of four respondents expect employees to attend in-person meetings/events in Q2 or Q3 2021
  • Sales meetings with customers and prospects will be the priority for the year ahead
  • Three in five members of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) say vaccine availability is a ‘significant’ factor in their company’s decision to resume business travel
  • Despite the vaccine being rolled out in the U.S. over the past few weeks, 54% of GBTA member companies remain unsure about their position concerning vaccine availability and the resumption of business travel
    • However, one in five say their employees will be permitted to travel for work when a significant portion of the population have been vaccinated
  • Just over one-third (36%) of North American respondents say their company has begun planning 2021 meetings and/or events
    • Of those who report their company is planning to host/attend 2021 meetings and/or events, more than half are planning small to mid-sized meetings or events with up to 500 attendees
  • As attendance at in-person events increase through the year, hybrid meeting attendance is expected to decline as 2021 unfolds

Home for the HolidaysAAA, December 15, 2020

  • While nearly 85 million Americans plan to travel from December 23 through January 3, that is 34 million fewer travelers than 2019, a decline of at least 29%
    • Of those traveling, more than nine in 10 will travel by car, a decline of at least 25% compared to last year
    • Auto travel will likely replace some trips previously taken by air, bus or train
  • Holiday travelers are continuing to take a wait-and-see approach to their travel decisions which will likely result in last minute cancellations

Optimism for Travel in 2021 Growing, Expedia Group Media Solutions, December 10, 2020

  • Though consumer confidence in travel varies by country and generation, one in two travelers feel optimistic—comfortable or even excited—about taking a trip in the next 12 months
  • Global travelers said that they are more likely to take trips between April and September 2021
  • Health, safety, flexibility and financial peace of mind are essential. Three-quarters of travelers said measures such as mask enforcement, reduced capacity or contactless services and flexible cancellation policies will inform where they stay on their next trip
    • Seven in 10 travelers want added flexibility, such as travel insurance and trip protection, full cancellations and refunds on transportation and accommodations
  • Close to six in 10 (57%) travelers said they would be comfortable traveling if a vaccine is widely available, which is promising given that this sentiment was captured prior to recent positive vaccine news

The Harris Poll CV-19 TrackerDecember 11, 2020 and December 16,2020

  • Just one in five Americans (21%) are planning on attending an in-person gathering for Christmas this year and 14% say they will be hosting an in-person gathering
  • Three quarters say they are not likely to travel for Christmas this year and more than two in five Americans (43%) have changed their Christmas plans in the past few weeks
    • Of those who changed plans, more than half (55%) altered the number of people they will be celebrating with
  • One-quarter of Americans are planning on celebrating Christmas virtually this year
  • If companies allow a permanent work-from-home option, half of Americans say they would be likely to relocate elsewhere
    • Half of Americans (50%) would choose to relocate closer to family and friends, while (45%) would be near a beach

By the Numbers: World Travel Tourism Council Releases Annual Global Economic Impact Report

April 07, 2021 Aaron Szyf, Economist , U.S. Travel Association “By the Numbers” is a periodic look at data on the travel economy fro...

Read more

Tourism Talks: Zoom Town Hall Meetings

Tourism Matters to Montana, Voices of Montana Tourism and the Montana Lodging and Hospitality Association have joined together to host week...

Read more

2020 Year In Review

December 16, 2020 by Roger Dow, President and CEO, U.S. Travel Association Travel was poised for extraordinary growth in 2020 until an u...

Read more

Leaders work to build pro-tourism collaboration

Posted: November 8, 2018 Survey summary: A survey of tourism entities across MontanaMeeting #3 summary + topics of conversation October...

Read more