USTOA Survey Reveals Plans for Restarting Business

USTOA surveyed active members about their post-COVID-19 plans for recovery and the resumption of business and found that there was a strong desire among international travelers to return to travel.

The survey showed that more than half (57 percent) of respondents reported that business on the books for 2021 is rebooked guests from canceled 2020 departures. One-third (32 percent) of business for 2021 is existing reservations made prior to the coronavirus outbreak, and 11 percent are new reservations made in 2020.

Eighty percent of current bookings are to international destinations, the remaining 20 percent of traveler bookings are to North America (U.S., Canada and Mexico).

“While short-term uncertainty remains, the survey of our tour operator members reveals that the desire among consumers for international travel remains promising, especially looking ahead to 2021,” said Terry Dale, USTOA president and CEO. “Our Active Members are taking a destination-by-destination approach to resume operations around the globe, with cautious optimism for an anticipated return to business in various regions this fall.”

In terms of when businesses would return to certain destinations, here is the breakdown from the survey results:

Africa: 26 percent of tour operators foresee restarting operations in September 2020, while an equal number (26%) anticipate returning to the region in the first quarter of 2021.

Antarctica: 54 percent of the respondents with itineraries to Antarctica anticipate resuming operations between November and December 2020.

Asia: The most selected response for potential operations restart in the region was the first quarter of 2021 at 27 percent.

Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands: 44 percent of tour operators with programs to this region anticipate resuming operations in the first quarter of 2021.

Canada: 32 percent of members foresee September 2020 as a potential return to operations in Canada.

Europe: 51 of respondents anticipate resuming operations in Europe between September and October 2020.

Mexico: 17 percent of tour operator respondents with programs to the destination anticipate returning in June 2020; another 17 percent named September 2020, with an additional 17 percent foreseeing the second quarter of 2021 for a return.

South America: 44 percent of tour operators with programs to countries in South America anticipate resuming operations between September and October 2020.

United States: 30 percent of respondents anticipate domestic operations restarting in September 2020; 26 percent of members foresee a July 2020 start.

As operations begin to ramp up, so to will marketing. According to USTOA’s research 40 percent of members anticipate starting or restarting consumer and trade marketing campaigns in the third quarter of 2020.

Twenty-seven percent said that they would restart consumer marketing in the second quarter, and 21 percent that they would restart trade marketing.

Twelve percent are planning a fourth-quarter 2020 restart, and 18 percent never stopped consumer or trade marketing.

The message in that marketing will not be the same as before the pandemic. Seventy-nine percent of members said that their marketing message will change and that they will emphasize health and safety.

“It’s clear that continued collaboration between our tour operator members and destination tourism members will be critical in order to rebuild travel programs as well as consumer confidence,” said Dale. “Addressing health and safety measures is a top priority, and USTOA is working with our counterparts at the European Tour Operators Association and the Canadian Association of Tour Operators to develop guidelines specific to our tour operator members.”

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