Like many of our fellow tourism industry professionals, we made a lot of assumptions about post-pandemic travel. How would these unprecedented times affect traveler decisions, intentions and when could we expect them to act on those?
ABC Creative Group has been doing destination marketing for nearly two decades and we’re just as invested in successful campaigns as any TPA or DMO across our state. We also noticed available surveys or studies were national in scope.
As a service to our tourism clients and the industry we completely understand is hurting at the moment, we decided to find answers to those questions and more by partnering with Drive Research to canvas New York State outside of the City.
Why? Because one of the aforementioned assumptions was that drive-time destinations would become the most popular as stay-at-home orders are lifted. We assumed people would be anxious to explore the outdoors and social distance-friendly communities that are plentiful in upstate New York. We also guesstimated pre-survey how long certain age demographics would wait to get out there.
We’re happy to report these assumptions, based on many years of destination marketing experience and quite frankly hope, were affirmed with the data we collected and presented over 96 pages in our special report.
What We Did
We surveyed 1,000 New Yorkers in various age groups and from each of the state’s major metropolitan areas to find what, where and when they intended to travel. Most of the state of New York is known for drive time-
friendly destinations – places people can easily get to in an hour or few for a day trip.
We also knew these areas have many “lookalike” demographics just outside the state, so these insights could be applied to places that are within a few hours by vehicle in just about any direction as well.
Our questions were many – about 22 of them – and they covered a lot of ground. For example, we asked if driving was preferred over a flight, where they were willing to travel, whether health would be a concern and when they’d be ready to go.
We classified respondents into age groups to give insights into what types of messaging to use with whom and when. These groups included Traditionalists (born in or before 1945), Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and our newest Gen Z.
The goal was to paint the most detailed picture possible of not just the future, but the now. What we discovered was great opportunity for New York state destinations. Here’s why and how we as marketers need to take advantage …
What We Found
- Post-COVID travel will largely be a no-fly zone as we expect people (71 percent) to jump into personal vehicles instead of on planes or trains. This is a major plus for drive-time friendly New York.
- In the weeks and months after limitations are lifted, travelers will still seek social distance to some degree. This is good news for a state filled with natural attractions and smaller communities.
- Survey takers were most looking forward to visiting state parks and lakes (around 50 percent). Shopping was the next biggest category at 40.6 percent. These and other popular answers should be focuses for TPAs and DMOs now.
- Gen Z is most anxious to hit the road as 41.3 percent checked the highest box indicating they couldn’t wait to get out and most would be traveling within a few weeks after the quarantine. Alternatively, the majority of every other age group expected to wait “more than a few months” before resuming travel. So, timing of messaging will be very important to all of us.
- The majority of each age demo said they would avoid large crowds and considered themselves “somewhat concerned” about health (as opposed to very concerned or not at all). Which leads us to what we suggest doing with all this info …
What Happens Next
Get ready, New York state. And start now.
Based on the data, we anticipate a few separate waves of travelers coming to towns, villages and small cities near you soon after the stay-at-home situation ends. To prepare, destination marketers need to manage messaging very carefully. Appeal to your younger demographics now and older generations later. Target advertising based on the interests, intentions and plans in your drive-time markets you can identify in the report.
In the weeks and months ahead, it’s critical destinations create the experiences travelers will expect – now is the time to encourage tourism partners to create social-distance friendly environments. That could mean everything from sanitized shops to more outdoor seating at restaurants, perhaps a few less stools in the tasting room.
A final note: Remember that historically, the country tends to emerge from crisis with a renewed sense of American pride and interest in our culture’s key characteristics. Having worked with many New York state destinations over the years, we happen to know that the Americana vibe permeates our communities.
So, take heart, be strong and get busy. It’s time to look forward to the future, which we don’t need data to prove tends to come fast. Got questions? Want to talk more about the results? Drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org