As the COVID-19 pandemic took hold of the globe these past weeks, we’ve continued to see the downturn in visitation to travel sites. With society still adhering to social distancing guidelines, consumers continue to avoid unnecessary travel and visitation to travel sites is still 55-65 percent lower than volumes we saw during the week of February 3, 2020.
This precipitous drop in visitation has translated to a downward trend in consumer spending on travel. Overall, we saw a 43 percent year over year drop in desktop travel spending for the month of March 2020, despite the fact that the steep decline in travel site visitation did not really begin until the week of March 16, 2020 (factoring in that the spike in visitation during the week of March 9, 2020 was likely due to cancelations). The airline category, which makes up roughly two thirds of all travel spend, fared the best only seeing a 38 percent drop from last year, but the hotel industry is reeling (with a 61 percent decline). As consumers ease back into travel, it will be interesting to see when each sector begins its recovery. Will car and RV rentals come back first? Will hotels, with daily housekeeping, recover faster than home vacation rentals? At what point will consumers feel comfortable navigating crowded airports and airplanes?
One metric we are watching carefully is “minutes spent per unique visitor”, a measurement of consumer engagement on travel sites. This metric varies from week to week, but the week of April 13, 2020 did show a bump for all travel categories. Could this be a hidden trend highlighting a shift in how consumers are using these sites? Perhaps this recent spike in travel site engagement is related to consumers planning trips in anticipation of being able to safely travel again. Alternatively, this could also be related to another wave of travel cancelations. We will be closely watching the trends around this category and will continue to post updates.
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