We have reached a turning point when it comes to consumers venturing back out into the world. A renewed demand for leisure activities and many of the things that make the Gulf South distinct – tourism, entertainment and outdoor activities – is evident according to the 2021 Gulf South Index Report. People are heading back to bars and restaurants and planning road trips this summer to driving destinations like our Gulf Coast beaches.
Research shows that more than 50% of people – both nationwide and in the Gulf South – say they are planning an early summer adventure. This compares to about 40% last year. “The pent-up demand seems very clear,” said Marc Ehrhardt, president of The Ehrhardt Group. “People aren’t necessarily ready to get on an airplane, but they’re ready for a road trip.”
Consumers are eager to take a vacation, and two-thirds of Americans have their summer travel planned or booked, according to The Harris Poll COVD-19 tracker. For more than half of the Americans who already have a trip on the calendar, this will be their first time traveling since before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.
This is welcomed news for the travel, restaurant and tourism industries across the country and in our region.
Males, parents and millennials are the most likely to be ready to travel right now. Only 17% of Americans are ‘unlikely to travel for the foreseeable future’ with Baby Boomers being the most hesitant group, according to The Harris Poll.
ON THE ROAD AGAIN
We’ve decided to go, but how will we get there?
Personal car is the preferred mode of transportation for 59% of consumers with air travel following behind at a distant 27%, according to recent data by Morning Consult. This is encouraging for the Gulf South region as places like New Orleans and the beaches in coastal Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida Panhandle rely on tourism for their local economies. Businesses in these markets are primed to draw travelers from drive-in markets that are ready for a long-overdue vacation, but still hesitant to travel a considerable distance.
65% of Americans said they are planning to travel within the U.S. at least once now through Labor Day.
28% plan to travel take multiple domestic trips this summer.
43% of said they plan to spend more than $1,000 on their trips.
More travelers are also planning to stay in hotels this summer with 34% saying they would opt to stay at a major hotel chain – up from about 25% this past winter.
THE BEACH IS CALLING
Beach destinations and all-inclusive offerings are the reigning popular choices for those looking to book their summer getaway. While international travel is still mostly at a standstill, national parks and ‘tropical but close to home’ destinations such as Hawaii and Mexico are gaining traction as safe possibilities for vacations. Interest is also on the rise for big city leisure travel, which is coming in right behind beach options, according to Morning Consult data.
What do consumers want to do during their vacation? Shop. This is a popular vacation activity with 34% of survey respondents indicating they will partake in some retail therapy during their summer trip.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR OUR REGION?
“Businesses in the Gulf South will continue to see an uptick in visitors to their establishments and we could very well reach or exceed pre-pandemic levels of traffic in our region, especially in the beach and tourist areas,” said Ehrhardt. “Now is the opportunity to make up for lost revenues and even gain new, loyal customers as many may be visiting our area for the first time.”
Optimism is high and consumers are on the road again.
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HOW DID WE FIND THIS STUFF OUT?
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.
The Index delves into hundreds of thousands of data points to paint a better picture of how the millions of people living in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and the Florida panhandle are going about their lives. We want to find out more about how we make decisions, from what we are buying and how we are getting our news to where we plan to travel.
Causeway Solutions and The Ehrhardt Group conducted a series of online surveys, each of 1,443-1,500 adults with a margin of error of 2.5%. Surveys were conducted on February 25, 2021 and March 16, 2021.
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.