USTA: U.S. Leisure Demand 'Phenomenal' but Business, Group Travel Still Needed

The comeback of U.S. domestic leisure travel is "nothing short of phenomenal," said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow in a Thursday press conference, after noting that 77 percent of U.S. respondents to a recent Harris Poll...

USTA: U.S. Leisure Demand 'Phenomenal' but Business, Group Travel Still Needed

The comeback of U.S. domestic leisure travel is "nothing short of phenomenal," said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow in a Thursday press conference, after noting that 77 percent of U.S. respondents to a recent Harris Poll said that they had plans to travel this summer. That figure compares with just 29 percent of U.S. respondents who last June said they had plans for summer 2020 travel in a similar Harris Poll.

"But there is no way we are going to bring back all those lost jobs unless we bring back business travel and professional meetings and events, and international, and that is all still pretty far away and a high priority," he said. 

The recent Harris Poll was commissioned by Let's Go There, a coalition of 75 travel companies and organizations created last September "with the mission of keeping travel on the minds of Americas even as traveling was virtually halted by the pandemic." It was fielded April 23-25, 2021, with 2,097 U.S. adults responding. The previous poll referenced surveyed 2,000 U.S. adults June 25-29, 2020.

Dow added that USTA also is calling on President Biden's administration to take a "risk-based scientific approach" to reopening international travel and offer consistent messaging on professional meetings and events. 

"There's a very big difference between a professional meeting and event than a very large gathering," Dow said. "When you have a professional convention or meeting, you can control the registration, the spacing between meals, and seating and all of those things. It's a very controlled environment and safe environment."

In the meantime, "our leisure business is up 30 percent to 40 percent over what we saw in 2019," said Marriott International chief sales and marketing officer for the U.S. and Canada Julius Robinson, who also is a co-chair of Let's Go There. "There are many reasons for that. One, obviously, there is more occupancy available. As our business travel and group business have been down somewhat, it's being replaced by an aggressive leisure community, and we're very excited about that. And we anticipate those numbers to continue throughout the rest of summer and into early fall."

Other findings from the survey show that 36 percent of respondents already have planned their trips and 30 percent have booked them. Of those two segments, more than half (53 percent) will be traveling for the first time since the start of the pandemic.