On the Road Again: What Marketers Want | Marketing Maestros | Blogs | ANA

On the Road Again: What Marketers Want

June 1, 2021

By Duke Fanelli

XiaoYun Li/Getty Images

As the country, and a large portion of the world, begins to open again after 15 months of suffering through the devastating coronavirus, there are bright spots for business travel and all that brings with it.

The latest business travel survey conducted by the ANA between May 5-14 shows that as respondents look ahead to the summer and fall, an increasing number will be packing their bags and taking to the skies, but only if extra safety precautions are in place. Many businesses remain cautious, with some 25 percent citing 2022 before employee travel will be approved.

Of the more than 1,450 respondents who answered the 10-question survey, only 25 percent of ANA brand marketers reported that their companies are authorizing business travel at this time. Thirty seven percent of ANA marketing solution providers and 46 percent of non-ANA members polled are permitting business travel. These numbers are expected to increase monthly though the summer and fall, with September seeing the largest increase in business travel.

The ANA survey is consistent with expectations from the International Air Transport Association, which represents 290 airlines around the world. The association anticipates business travel to bounce back more slowly than leisure travel because companies reduced travel budgets during the pandemic and many in-person conferences have been replaced with virtual offerings. As one ANA survey respondent explained, “Business travel may require highest-level approvals for a while. It would probably depend on how much a priority it is for the firm.”

Although the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and federal, state, and local authorities sometimes issue contradictory guidelines for a return to “normalcy,” one factor remains consistent and supported virtually universally: Getting people 12 and older fully vaccinated. The drumbeat to get vaccinated is loud and present across all media. Some 87 percent of ANA survey respondents reported being vaccinated, with the majority being comfortable to travel. In addition, 60 percent said they plan to be vaccinated over the next several months. A recent article in The New York Times reported there are about 30 million Americans who are open to getting the vaccine but have not. Their reasons include not wanting to miss work because of possible side effects, barriers to access, and social isolation.

When survey-takers were asked what would make them comfortable to travel, being vaccinated was the number one response, followed by mandated mask wearing and social distancing and having their household vaccinated. (Note: The survey was issued before the latest CDC guidance on mask wearing and social distancing.) More than 40 percent of respondents agree that hotels must communicate their cleaning policies. Critical too is having herd immunity in the state being visited. As one respondent said, “I feel much safer now that I'm vaccinated and am eager to get back to travel. But I'm concerned, for myself and my household, about being in crowds of those who are not vaccinated and do not practice safety protocols.”

Many of these findings are consistent with ANA’s January survey on business travel, fielded among its members and nonmembers. When asked what would make travel more acceptable and comfortable, 75 percent said “being immunized” and 70 percent said “having broad distribution of the coronavirus vaccine.” Airline and hotel cleaning protocols also ranked high at the time. Some respondents said they would only travel when there is a substantial decline in positive COVID tests. Now, just four months later, with many of the concerns being addressed, signs point to a strong return. As one May survey-taker said, “My comfort level will change as more of the U.S. gets vaccinated and there is more research into how long the shots build immunity in the body.”

The impact of the virus has changed dramatically since January. As people reengage and search for normalcy, we can’t lose sight of the fact that it has been a difficult time for those who experienced the loss of family and friends, endured economic suffering, or dealt with educational setbacks and broad isolation. As we enter the summer of 2021, the worst may be over, but we need to move forward with highly cautious optimism and a full understanding of the potential for setbacks in the months and years ahead.

I personally look forward to a return to normal, even if it’s only a semblance of the normal we previously enjoyed.

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