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Dog Days of Summer Travel: Week of July 20th Update

Published on Jul 26, 2020 in Blog, Daily Travel Index

Road trip activity slows across the U.S. as Summer break winds down and Covid-19 cases continue to rise in the most populous states.

Road trip activity slows across the country in the weeks following the 4th of July holiday as COVID-19 cases continue to rise and public sentiment on the enthusiasm for travel continues to wane according to surveys conducted by market research companies Longwoods International and Destination Analysts.

Overall, the national average for consumer road trips for all mileage bands has fallen 13% in the weeks following the 4th of July holiday. The largest drops have occurred for trips over 100 miles. Trips of over 250 miles hit the highest values recorded in the DTI this year, with a value of 237.5% over the index baseline (which was established by measuring travel in the weeks before the pandemic). Those trips have fallen to 137% of the baseline, 15 percentage points off the average of the weeks leading up to the 4th of July holiday. Midrange trips (100-250 miles in length) fell even more—23 percentage points—for the 3 weeks since the holiday compared to the 3 weeks just before it.

Residents in states hit hard by the COVID-19 resurgence have generally pulled back on travel the most especially in populous states like Florida, Texas and California. In the weeks before the 4th of July, the 3 states collectively posted a DTI value of 54.5% over the baseline…but that value has sunk to 30.8% over the baseline in the 3 weeks since—including a value of just 19.1% over baseline for Friday, July 24th.

Road Trip Activity Slows: Road Trip Activity: Recovery after holiday weekends
Daily Travel Index for Texas, Florida and California:  Resident Trips Over 50 Miles
Daily Travel Index for Texas, Florida, and California: Resident Trips Over 50 Miles

While the drop in consumer road trips has been virtually across the board, some states have seen resident activity remain steady or even increase in recent weeks. New York—the epicenter of the pandemic earlier this year—has enjoyed both a downward spiral in virus cases as well as slight increase in the average volume of resident travel—up 4 percentage points since the 4th of July compared to the same time period before the holiday.

Road Trip Activity Slows Daily Travel Index for New York Residents, All Trips Over 50 Miles
Daily Travel Index for New York Residents, All Trips Over 50 Miles

In Illinois, activity has decreased but only slightly—just 4 percentage points for the past 3 weeks despite a general upward trend in Covid-19 cases there.

Road Trip Activity Slows Daily Travel Index for Illinois Residents, All Trips Over 50 Miles
Daily Travel Index for Illinois Residents, All Trips Over 50 Miles

A Closer Look: Travel Trends by DMA

As previously mentioned, the general trend for travel in the U.S. has been on a downward curve since July 4th. There are marked differences, however between some of the country’s largest cities.

Road Trip Activity Slows Daily Travel Index by DMA, All Trips Over 50 Miles
Daily Travel Index by DMA, All Trips Over 50 Miles

While Miami/Fort Lauderdale residents have also slowed their road trip activities since the holiday, that activity has seen both bigger spikes before the holiday—as well as a smaller fall off after the 4th. Possible explanations could be the annual migration of Miami residents to cooler climates or to leave the area while COVID-19 trends have hit recent peaks. Houston, another current pandemic epicenter, has seen residents pull back road trip activity far more—even sinking back in to negative numbers for shorter road trips of 50-100 miles this past weekend, July 24th. Atlanta, San Francisco and Phoenix have all recorded DTI drops in excess of 30 percentage points during the past 3 weeks. These steep drops in activity coincide with recent research by Longwoods International, which highlights in their most recent study that just 38% of Americans currently feel safe traveling outside of their communities. Likewise, Destination Analysts recently released a survey study that indicates 46.7% of Americans have no remaining travel plans in 2020. These indicated declines in consumer travel sentiments, combined with the historical ‘twilight’ of the summer family travel season and the continued pandemic…appear to be combining to have a powerful downward effect on American road trip activity.

Methodology

Arrivalist’s methodology is based on a representative balanced panel of GPS signals representing road trips taken specifically in cars (excluding travel by air). A trip is measured as one where the user has traveled a minimum of 50 miles and spent a minimum of 2 hours at the destination. Commuter travel or other frequently repeated trips—i.e., cargo deliveries or other recurring activities — are excluded from the Daily Travel Index. 

 About Arrivalist

Arrivalist is the leading location intelligence platform in the travel Industry. The company uses multiple location data sets to provide actionable insights on consumer behavior, competitive share, media effectiveness, and market trends. Over 200 travel marketers, including 100 cities, 40 U.S. States, and four of the top 10 U.S. theme parks, use these insights to inform media strategy, operations, and destination development. Arrivalist is headquartered in New York City, with offices in San Francisco and Toronto.

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