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Comment: Has Covid affected our love of travel?

Britons and Americans’ interests have changed during the pandemic, says YouGov’s Eva Satkute Stewart

A new year brings the reality of a Covid-19 vaccine closer and those dreaming of travel may soon be able to take the trips they plan for in 2021. Given the disruption to the travel industry brought on by the pandemic – leading to huge reductions in the amount of traveling done last year – what has happened to travel interest among Brits and Americans during that time?

Throughout the course of 2020, despite restrictions and lockdowns, more than two in five Brits said they were still interested in travel (43%). The topic of travel ranks third only slightly behind animals and nature, and food and beverage as the most popular interest among Britons.

While travel remained the third most popular interest in the UK, there were fewer Brits interested in travel in 2020 than there were in 2019 prior to the pandemic (43% vs. 46%). A closer look by age groups reveals that the largest declines in travel interest occurs among those aged 55 and over (49% in 2019 vs. 44% in 2020).

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It appears that, during the pandemic, the UK has shifted its focus away from politics. The topic suffered a five-point decrease in interest between 2020 and 2019, as did interest in national news (a four-point decline). With most cultural venues shut for a significant proportion of the year, we see a three-point decrease in music and local events.

By comparison, American interest in travel remained steady at pre-pandemic levels throughout 2020. Slightly more than a third of Americans (35%) said they were interested in travel in 2019 and 2020 and the subject is the seventh-most popular general interest in both years. Even across age groups, none showed significant decay in their interest in travel.

This sustained interest in travel among Americans may be being fed by media content for now. For example, when Americans were asked which TV networks they watched in the past 30 days, viewership for the Travel Channel increased from 5% November in 2019 to 7% in November 2020, representing a 35% increase. The largest increase in Travel Channel viewership occurs among younger Americans aged 18-34 (2% in 2019 vs. 4% in 2020; a 68% increase). Viewership of the channel may have been aided by the off-beat “Shock Docs” series, which is the Travel Channel’s high-ever rated show when including time-shifted viewing but it’s nonetheless encouraging for the sector to see such appetite for travel content.

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Travel recovery efforts will be in full effect across the globe in 2021 but YouGov data shows travel brands may have to adapt their strategies and campaigns to the unique situations in each market. Data points out it is vital to be front of mind of consumers to nurture their interest in travelling and wanderlust. Industry players may have to reignite some demographics’ passion for travel and the US is a good example where demand, for certain types of travel content, is already higher than pre-pandemic levels. As the new year unfolds, keeping up with the perceptions of various traveler segments will prove critical in helping people explore the world again.

Methodology: The data on people’s general interests is based on interviews of British and US adults aged 18 and over. All interviews were conducted online and results have been weighted to be nationally representative of each respective country.

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