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NEW YORK (May 20, 2020) — The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) has released findings from a survey of its Active Members about post-COVID- 19 plans for recovery and resumption of business. According to Terry Dale, USTOA president and CEO, the recent research is part of USTOA’s ongoing efforts to support and inform its members throughout the coronavirus crisis. 

Terry Dale, USTOA
Terry Dale

According to the USTOA survey, more than half (57%) of Active Member respondents reported that business on the books for 2021 is rebooked guests from cancelled 2020 departures. One-third (32%) of Active Member business for 2021 is existing reservations made prior to the coronavirus outbreak, and 11% represents new reservations made in 2020. 

According the survey, 80% percent of current Active Member traveler bookings are to international destinations, the remaining 20% of traveler bookings are to North America (U.S., Canada and Mexico). 

“While short-term uncertainty remains, the survey of our tour operator members reveals that the desire among consumers for international travel remains promising, especially looking ahead to 2021,” Dale said. “Our Active Members are taking a destination-by-destination approach to resume operations around the globe, with cautious optimism for an anticipated return to business in various regions this fall.”

When asked when they anticipate restarting operations in destinations around the world, the results are as follows:

  • Africa: A quarter (26%) of tour operators foresee restarting operations in September 2020, while an equal number (26%) anticipate returning to the region in the first quarter of 2021.  
  • Antarctica: More than half (54%) of the respondents with itineraries to Antarctica anticipate resuming operations between November and December 2020.
      
     
  • Asia: the most selected response for a potential operations restart in the region was the first quarter of 2021 at 27%.  

  • Australia, New Zealand and the Pacific Islands: Almost half (44%) of tour operators with programs to this region anticipate resuming operations in the first quarter of 2021. 

  • Canada: One third of Active Members foresee September 2020 as a potential return to operations in Canada (32%) 

  • Europe: Half (51%) of respondents anticipate resuming operations in Europe between September and October 2020.  

  • Mexico: 17% of tour operator respondents with programs to the destination anticipate returning in June 2020; another 17% named September 2020, with an additional 17% foreseeing the second quarter of 2021 for a return.
     
  • South America: Almost half (44%) of tour operators with programs to countries in South America anticipate resuming operations between September and October 2020.

  • United States: 30% of respondents anticipate domestic operations restarting in September 2020; another quarter (26%) of members foresee a July 2020 start.

Marketing

Roughly 40% of Active Members anticipate starting or restarting both consumer and trade marketing campaigns in third quarter 2020. A quarter of the respondents plan to restart consumer (27%) and trade (21%) marketing in second quarter 2020, while 12% are planning a fourth quarter 2020 restart.  Of the respondents, 18% never stopped consumer or trade marketing. 

Acknowledging the present uncertainty and need to continually assess the situation as recovery unfolds, three fourths (79%) of Active Members say their marketing message will change. When asked how marketing messages may change, tour operators cited an emphasis on health and safety most frequently, followed by a focus on the advantages of small group/ship size. In last year’s tour operator member survey, small groups/small ships were named one of the top three travel trends projected to grow the most over the next five years. 

Said Dale, “It’s clear that continued collaboration between our tour operator members and destination tourism members will be critical in order to rebuild travel programs as well as consumer confidence. Addressing health and safety measures is a top priority, and USTOA is working with our counterparts at the European Tour Operators Association and the Canadian Association of Tour Operators to develop guidelines specific to our tour operator members.” 

The USTOA survey was completed on May 11, with a 56% response rate of Active Member brands.

For more information on USTOA, visit ustoa.com