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Half of Americans say travel affects their decision to get vaccinated

Feb. 03, 2021
7 min read
Half of Americans say travel affects their decision to get vaccinated
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For restless Americans who have primarily stayed home since the onset of the pandemic, coronavirus vaccines are in hot demand — particularly for travelers. Like face masks and hand sanitizer, these new vaccines promise to make the world safer for everyone and are also key to restarting travel.

Though health concerns are certainly top of mind, half of Americans (49%) say their willingness to get vaccinated is influenced by their desire to travel, according to a new survey by TPG.

More than a quarter of Americans (over 26%) — mostly millennials and those earning more than $80,000 a year — said travel had a "major impact" on their decision to get vaccinated, while 23% said travel had a "minor impact" on their vaccination plans.

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TPG partnered with YouGov to survey nearly 1,300 U.S. adults between Jan. 25 and Jan. 26, 2021, and the promise of coronavirus immunity is influencing how people across the country are thinking about travel.

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At this time, less than 10% of the U.S. population has been vaccinated, primarily healthcare workers, first responders and high-risk individuals. Still, people are clearly itching to hit the road: More than half (55%) of Americans surveyed said they hadn't taken any trips since the onset of the novel coronavirus pandemic, underscoring why so many people may see the COVID-19 vaccine as the key to unlocking travel. Even before the vaccine rollout, travel providers told TPG that they saw an uptick in optimistic travel bookings for 2021.

"We do expect that [the vaccine] will definitely be an important motivator to folks being willing to [travel] again,” Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of public affairs and policy at the U.S. Travel Association, told TPG late last year.

Related: Will you need an immunity passport to fly? How the COVID-19 vaccine will restart travel

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A third of Americans say they have at least one trip planned this year, though most of those people are waiting until at least April — perhaps in anticipation of vaccines becoming more widely available and warmer weather. The majority of trips planned for 2021 are currently booked between April and September, with young millennials (48%) at the forefront of the travel comeback.

"Since the beginning of January, it felt like the floodgates opened with clients calling not about traveling in the next two weeks, but traveling to the Mediterranean this summer," said Jack Ezon, founder and managing partner of luxury travel agency Embark Beyond, a Virtuoso member. "And it seems like we’re not the only ones," he added, saying that European "hot spots" are already filling up, as "people [jump] on summer plans early."

Ezon says about half of his clients who are booking summer trips have already been vaccinated or have COVID-19 antibodies. "The other half just assume they will be by the summer" and are "focusing on tomorrow."

Related: Making up for lost time: 2021 is gearing up to be an epic year for travel

For most Americans, the types of trips they'll be comfortable taking even after receiving the COVID-19 vaccine may not change as much as you might expect.

About a third of Americans said they'd be likely to take an out-of-state or in-state road trip (35% and 32%, respectively) if they received the COVID-19 vaccine by the end of 2021. Road trips will, by and large, remain the preferred method of travel in the immediate future.

But though the numbers are still low, vaccines are noticeably boosting traveler confidence — which explains the rise in summer trips to Europe.

More than 14% of Americans surveyed said they'd be likely to take an international flight after being vaccinated (up from 10% who said they'd be comfortable flying out of the country in May). And 27% said they'd be likely to book a domestic flight, up from 20% who said they were comfortable with domestic flights over the summer. Only 8% said they'd be likely to cruise after getting the vaccine, but even that's up a tick from last summer, when only 7% would even consider such a notion.

"The people who love to cruise, I think, will put up with a lot to get back on a cruise ship. Even if [a vaccination] is required before you can get on a cruise ship ... I don't think that's going to deter anybody who wants to get back to cruising who is a cruise enthusiast," said Virginia Sheridan, a managing partner at Finn Partners, who monitors the cruise industry.

In May, 28% of Americans said they'd be comfortable staying in a hotel before the end of 2020. That number moved up incrementally to 30% in January, with the promise of vaccines on the horizon. And over the summer, 19% of people said they'd be comfortable staying in a vacation rental, such as an Airbnb or VRBO. But just under 14% of people surveyed in January said they'd be likely to stay at a vacation home after getting vaccinated.

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It's possible other factors — ongoing mask mandates, new virus variants and new testing requirements, for example — are figuring more prominently into people's travel plans than vaccinations, which are still not widely available. And planning a trip during the ongoing pandemic remains a tricky business, whether you've been vaccinated or not.

This is changing the pacing and nature of trips that Americans are booking, even if they expect to be vaccinated. But a study from Priceline found that travelers still had strong interests in Mexico and the Caribbean for upcoming travel -- even with the new testing requirements for international arrivals.

"The trips we design now are much slower than pre-pandemic trips," Ezon said. "People are going to less places and staying longer in each place," he said, explaining that "travel logistics are too cumbersome, complicated and unpredictable to move around a lot."

The vaccine may be a harbinger of better times, but it can't immediately undo all the border restrictions, testing mandates, quarantine recommendations, social distancing practices, mask requirements and other policies Americans may see as obstacles to travel.

Bottom line

Though the vaccine is crucial to restoring normalcy and facilitating travel's comeback, it's not an instant cure for an ailing industry. There's still a long road ahead to restoring traveler confidence and getting people comfortable with traveling again, the survey suggests.

But hopefully, when the pandemic is far behind us, travelers will find the industry is a safer, more hospitable place that recognizes how the needs of travelers have changed.

"The travel industry has learned a lot about being more flexible if people have to move dates [with] fewer penalties," Sheridan told TPG. "I think that has helped the confidence level of a lot of people because it wasn't so easy to do before."

And, of course, vaccines will play into this broader picture of travel in a post-pandemic world, where health is at the forefront of travel policies.

"Travel really ... brings people together, " Barnes told TPG in December. "We know people want to be able to get together again, and we're very encouraged by .... the vaccines and ... hope [that] they'll be widespread and available."

Additional reporting by Vikkie Walker.

Feature photo by Marko Geber/Getty Images.

Featured image by Getty Images
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
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  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
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Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more