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Eager travelers seek the road less traveled during the pandemic

As uncertainty around international travel continues, many American travelers are finding new ways to satisfy their pent-up travel demand through safer and more responsible travel experiences. As a result, they are taking to the open road and diversifying their travel options by seeking hyperlocal getaways, giving rise to secondary destinations.

While there was an immediate dip in travel months after the rise of COVID-19, new Expedia Group data* shows initial signs of recovery as month-over-month increased for room night demand from May to June, including:

  • Cape Cod, MA – up more than 800%
  • Napa Valley, CA – room night demand increased by over 400%
  • Outer Banks, NC– up more than 200%

Travelers’ desire for ‘the road less traveled’ was also on the rise into summer: searches for secondary cities for trips in August**saw a significant jump in week-over-week searches from June 29 – July 6, 2020, including:

  • Monterey, CA – searches were up by nearly 85%
  • Cape Cod, MA – up more than 70%
  • Virginia Beach, VA – searches increased by nearly 60%
  • Myrtle Beach, SC – up more than 45%

There is also growing confidence for stays in the fall, when people likely anticipate they can more fully experience destinations. East Coast destinations, such as Cape Cod, MA and Outer Banks, NC, both experienced a nearly 70% increase in searches week-over-week from searches in July for trips in October***. Whereas searches for west coast destinations, such as Napa Valley, CA and Santa Barbara, CA, were both up by nearly 45% week-over-week from searches in July for trips in October***.

As travelers seek more hyperlocal getaways, it is no surprise that data also indicates a shift in travelers’ mode of transportation:

  • Domestic car trips remain a popular getaway at the moment, with the likelihood for travelers to rent a car for a leisure trip 3x higher now compared to pre-COVID levels, according to new research from Expedia Group Media Solutions+.
  • Car rental search data for July** shows interest spiking in many destinations, such as in Savannah, GA (over 70%) and in Santa Barbara, CA (nearly 80%)++.

How can lodging providers in secondary markets tap into this demand and prepare to welcome guests again, when the time is right?

  • Data and Insights – It’s important to pay attention to data to stay on top of the trends that indicate when demand will return and where that demand will come from. Expedia Group’s Market Insights Tool allows partners to stay informed of demand trends.
  • Amenities and Attractions – As travelers seek out safe and socially-distanced experiences – such as outdoor activities to avoid crowds – accommodation providers should offer information on open businesses, off-the-beaten-path activities and other less-populated attractions that will allow travelers to safely explore the surrounding area.
  • Transportation – As the majority of travelers will be traveling by car for trips through December 2020**, offer free, discounted or covered parking to help your property stand out among others in the market.

*According to Expedia Group stay data from May 1 – June 30, 2020

**According to Expedia Group search data from March 3 – July 13, 2020

***According to Expedia Group search data from July 6 -13, 2020 for trips in October

+According to Expedia Group Media Solutions custom research

++ According to Expedia Group search data from June 27 – July 25, 2020

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