The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) released a new that found that 64 percent of responding tour operators have seen an increase in bookings in the last 30 days.
Roughly a quarter (29 percent) have seen no change in bookings during this timeframe, with the remaining 7 percent reporting a decrease during the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a follow-up, USTOA asked when new passengers are scheduled to travel, based solely on bookings made in the last 30 to 60 days. Active USTOA members reported that roughly 41 percent of respondents said new passenger bookings are scheduled to travel in the fourth quarter of 2020, while 15 percent have bookings made for the third quarter of 2020.
Three-fourths (76 percent) of active members are reporting new bookings for the second quarter of 2021.
Half (51 percent) report new bookings being made for first-quarter 2021 travel and two-thirds (63 percent) say new bookings are for the third and fourth quarters of 2021.
Roughly 12 percent of responding members report new passenger bookings for 2022.
Nearly three-fourths (71 percent) of current bookings are to international destinations, while the remaining 29 percent are to North America (U.S., Canada, and Mexico).
“This reveals a slight increase in demand for North America product compared to the survey USTOA conducted in May, which reported North America travel bookings representing 20 percent of business,” said Terry Dale, USTOA president and CEO.
USTOA also surveyed its associate members, which are destination management organizations.
One-third (32 percent) of DMO respondents say it is “too early to determine” or “unknown” when their destination anticipates opening to North American travelers. Roughly 17 percent anticipate a July 2020 opening for North America tourism, while another 17 percent expect to reopen in September 2020. Nine percent project a January 2021 opening to North America.
At the same time, USTOA tour operator members continue to take a destination-by-destination approach to resuming operations. “While our last survey showed cautious optimism for a fall return in a handful of regions, we’re now seeing fall having the strongest possibility for the U.S., Canada and Europe, while early 2021 shows promise for many of the long-haul international destinations,” Dale said.
When asked when they anticipate restarting operations in destinations around the world, the results are as follows:
Africa: More than a quarter (29 percent) of tour operators foresee restarting operations in the first quarter of 2021, while 21 percent anticipate returning to the region in September 2020. Active members also showed new optimism for a November 2020 return to business, with the response jumping to 18 percent, compared to 7 percent reported in the May survey.
Antarctica: Thirty-one percent of respondents with itineraries to Antarctica anticipate resuming operations in the first quarter of 2021. A quarter (26 percent) said they plan to return between November and December 2020; that shows a significant change from the May survey where 54 percent said they had anticipated returning within that same timeframe.
Asia: Thirty-one percent said they hoped to restart operations in the first quarter of 2021.
Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands: More than half (53 percent) of tour operators anticipate resuming operations in the first quarter of 2021, showing an increase of almost 10 percent from the May active member survey.
Canada: A third (36 percent) see September 2020 as a potential return to operations in Canada. Respondents also showed new optimism for an October 2020 return to business, with the response jumping to 12 percent, compared to 0 percent in the May survey.
Central America: Thirty-three percent are hoping to restart in this region in the first quarter of 2021.
Europe: Fifty percent of respondents anticipate resuming operations in Europe between September and October 2020, remaining consistent with the last survey. Responses for an August 2020 return jumped 5 percent from the May survey with 14 percent anticipating a return in late summer.
Mexico: Twenty percent of tour operator respondents anticipate returning in the first quarter of 2021, showing a 12 percent increase from the May research report.
South America: Thirty percent of tour operators project restarting operations in the first quarter of 2021, showing an 11 percent increase compared to the survey response in May. Another 37 percent anticipate resuming operations between September and October 2020.
United States: Fifty-two percent of respondents anticipate domestic operations restarting between September and October 2020. Respondents also showed new optimism for an October 2020 return to business, with the response jumping to 15 percent, compared to 0 percent reported in the May survey. Now only 15 percent foresee a July 2020 start, while it was 26 percent in the May survey.
According to the DMO associate member survey, 94 percent expect FIT product to come back sooner and stronger compared to other tour product as their destination begins to reopen for tourism. Three fourths (74 percent) of destinations believe small groups will come back sooner and stronger than other tour product.
“Small group messaging is something our active members have expressed as a main focus for marketing efforts moving forward,” Dale said.
When it comes to health and safety practices, an overwhelming 94 percent of DMOs say they will use their own governments’ health and hygiene protocol. Nearly half (43 percent) reported that they will rely on UNWTO/WHO guidelines, while 15 percent noted that other health organization guidelines will be utilized.
Ninety-nine percent of DMO respondents see some level of opportunity for integrating sustainability practices or initiatives into recovery plans. Roughly 11 percent of those respondents indicated that sustainability practices/initiatives will the central focus of their recovery plan, while more than a quarter (28 percent) believe there is an opportunity to integrate sustainability to a great extent.
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