As the national economy continues to reopen, consumers are changing their behaviors and testing the waters. Memorial Day weekend saw more people on the go, an indication that many may be ready to relax social distancing, begin to re-engage with others and even visit public establishments. However, the latest data from Morning Consult shows that overall public opinion has not changed much since the beginning of May when it comes to re-engaging with social activities. As of early June, about 25% of U.S. adults say they feel safe participating in a variety of leisure activities, while most think it will be 30 days or more before they are ready to venture out.
WHERE CONSUMERS STAND RIGHT NOW
A Morning Consult survey conducted June 2-5 found that, while consumers are steadily becoming more comfortable with participating in every activity mentioned in the survey, they are the most comfortable going out to eat, taking a vacation and visiting a shopping mall. However, traveling abroad and going to a concert remain at the bottom of the list of activities people are ready to re-engage in.
Dining out is on the table. 35% of consumers surveyed are currently comfortable going out to eat in a restaurant, up from 23% who said the same May 12-15.
As of June 2, OpenTable reports that almost 40% of their restaurants in the U.S. are taking reservations once again. Here is the breakdown for restaurants in the Gulf South currently taking reservations:
- Louisiana – more than 50%
- Mississippi – data not available
- Alabama – Almost 70%
- Florida – Approximately 65%
People are starting to travel. The Wall Street Journal reported that air and hotel bookings are up. On May 21 and May 22, 318k+ and 348k+ passengers passed through U.S. security checkpoints – the first time since March 23 that air passengers topped 300k, according to TSA figures. While they may not be ready to travel internationally just yet, consumers are resuming domestic trips.
THE GULF SOUTH IS GETTING BACK OUTDOORS
In mid-April, we examined how people in the Gulf South were spending their time and moving about. Comparing movements between January and early April, citizens across the Gulf South made significant adjustments in where they traveled in the battle against COVID-19, according to Google’s mobility data.
Now see what changes are happening along the I-10 corridor between Baton Rouge, LA, and Panama City, FL, between April 5 and the last two weeks.
Across the Gulf South, people are staying home at about the same rate as they were eight weeks ago. This is likely due to many businesses opting to continue to have employees work remotely and the service industry slowly reopening with limited capacity. Teachers went home in March and have not returned to the classrooms and will likely not return until the fall.
The biggest shift comes in the number of people visiting parks, especially in the Florida panhandle. The beach and parks offer an opportunity for people to get out and enjoy themselves while still practicing social distancing. The largest spike is in Alabama’s Baldwin County, where the number of people visiting parks increased to 104% as of May 29 from January/February. As of April 5, the rate was at -44%, so this marks a substantial increase from the April 5 data.
When it comes to getting out for retail and recreation, the rate at which people are moving about is almost near the January/February levels across the Gulf South. Louisiana is the exception, however, as people are slower to return to these activities in this state compared to regional counterparts. This is likely due to Louisiana being one of the states hit the hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic and New Orleans, in particular, following stricter reopening policies than the rest of the state.
View more activities along the I-10 corridor in Louisiana, Mississippi, coastal Alabama and the Florida panhandle here.
WHEN WILL PEOPLE FEEL COMFORTABLE RESUMING ACTIVITIES?
While some people are ready to start resuming activities right now, others still need some time. The following data shows what people predict their comfort levels will be in the near future.
30% of national respondents in a June 5-7 survey said they would be comfortable dining in at a restaurant within the next 30 days, a segment that increased slightly since holding around 25% throughout May.
At the beginning of June, more people said it will take them more than six months to feel comfortable in a gym, at the movies, attending a concert or visiting an amusement park than those who said the same in early April.
Traveling abroad continues to be an activity that consumers are going to avoid for the time being.
THE GULF SOUTH INDEX
The Gulf South Index is a cooperative project between The Ehrhardt Group, a public relations, content, issues and crisis firm, and Causeway Solutions, a nationally recognized research and data analysis company, that are both based in the Gulf South. When the rest of the country may be zigging, we want to know if the Gulf South will zag and why, sharing that insight with you.
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HOW DID WE FIND THIS STUFF OUT?
We cannot comment on the methodology of the surveys and research we did not conduct, which is why we do our best to link to the source articles or studies that we share here.