Traveler confidence is surging, and it’s driving a significant rebound in travel activity. Nearly 86% of travelers have taken domestic trips, and 42% have traveled internationally, since the pandemic started a year a half ago, according to the 2021 Fall Global Rescue Traveler Sentiment and Safety Survey.
“Between April and October, there’s been a 74% jump in people taking domestic trips and an enormous 207% increase in individuals traveling internationally,” said Dan Richards, the CEO of Global Rescue and a member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board.
Fear of COVID-19-related quarantine or infection while traveling declined by 37% compared to January 2021, according to the survey of the most experienced travelers in the world. Three out of four survey respondents said they are “less” or “much less” concerned about travel today compared to the beginning of the pandemic, reflecting a 65% improvement in individual concerns about travel compared to traveler attitudes at the beginning of 2021.
“As COVID-19 fears subside, people are significantly less concerned about travel,” Richards said.
Vaccination prevalence, its efficacy and the declining infection rates are contributing to a return to travel normalcy. According to the survey, 73% of travelers reported being vaccinated, or having recovered from a COVID-19 infection, makes them feel safe enough to travel.
More than half of respondents (53%) said having medical evacuation protection gives them sufficient peace of mind to travel. “Travel insurance and protection services are taking off at pace with travel as it resumes,” Richards said.
Respondents said rescue service from point of injury or illness, including COVID-19, and transport to a medical facility were more important than Cancel For Any Reason travel insurance protecting against financial loss from last-minute trip cancellation or disruption.
“Since the pandemic, there’s been a 30% increase in travelers designating medical evacuation as the most important travel protection needed. COVID-19 brought to light the limitations of travel insurance and the importance of having a separate medical support and evacuation safety net that includes medical evacuation and transport for COVID-19,” Richards said.
A third of survey takers (36%) said choosing uncrowded or remote destinations was an important factor to feel safe enough to travel. Respondents listed China, the Middle East, Africa, India and Russia as the regions they were least likely to tour. Canada, Mexico, France, Italy and Spain were recognized as the countries travelers were most likely to visit.
Conversely, respondents said masking and physical distancing — common requirements endorsed by officials — were the least effective behaviors that would make them feel safe enough to travel.
“COVID-19 vaccines and treatments are successfully saving lives. People are keeping their fingers crossed in the hopes the end of the pandemic is near. Unfortunately, government officials haven’t found and applied a standardized system that will encourage a return to international business and leisure travel,” Richards said.
Some countries, like the U.S., still call for illogical rules like requiring fully vaccinated returning resident travelers to obtain and present a negative test result for COVID-19 infection. Vaccinated travelers to Bermuda who arrive without a negative pretest must quarantine until they get a negative result. In South Korea, a 14-day quarantine is required regardless of vaccination status.
“More pandemic procedural discernment will encourage people to book travel and help deliver the travel industry out of an economic crisis,” Richards said.