Despite reports of the latest COVID-19 variant, BA5, generating waves of reinfections and single-digit increases in U.S. hospitalizations, trip takers are sticking with plans to go abroad. Nearly 80% of the world’s most experienced travelers say the threat of a new COVID variant is unlikely to make them cancel or postpone international travel this year, according to the Summer 2022 Global Rescue Traveler Safety and Sentiment Survey.
“Whether it’s revenge travel or responsible travel following vaccination – or a combination of both – 7-out-of-10 travelers are much less concerned about travel compared to the beginning of the pandemic. They feel safe enough to plan trips and vacations because they’re vaccinated, borders are open and they have confidence they’ll be able to get home if the worst happens,” said Dan Richards, CEO of Global Rescue and a member of the U.S. Travel and Tourism Advisory Board at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Sixty-eight percent of survey respondents have already traveled internationally since the pandemic. The balance expects to travel abroad by the end of the year (16%) or in the first three months of 2023 (9%).
More international travel is likely due to the recent U.S. policy change. Nearly half of travelers (49%) say they are more likely to travel internationally in the next 12 months now that U.S. officials no longer require passengers flying to the U.S. to show a negative COVID viral test or documentation of recovery from COVID before they board their flight.
“The decision to end the requirement for a negative COVID test to enter the United States is a welcome step toward recognizing the decreasing severity of the disease, the urgent need to restore confidence for travelers, and support for an industry badly damaged by the pandemic,” Richards said.
Traveler hesitancy is unchanged since early 2022. After two years of pandemic-related travel restrictions, a third of survey respondents continue to experience “re-entry” to travel anxiety with worries about where to go, or when to get back to travel.
The biggest international travel fear among trip-takers is testing positive for COVID and being stranded away from home (33%), a 37% decrease from early 2022. Having an accident (24%), trip cancellation (21%) and civil unrest/terrorism (8%) were the next biggest concerns. Being robbed, war, natural disasters, and difficulty finding a COVID-19 testing facility each accounted for less than 2% of responses.
“The pandemic has generated a tectonic shift in the traveler mindset. Travelers learned emergency rescue and evacuation services are essential, whether it’s due to COVID, a natural disaster, civil unrest or simply needing emergency help when you’re traveling. The majority of travelers (64%) say medical evacuation services are more important than Cancel For Any Reason (18%) insurance or traditional travel insurance (15%). Traveler preferences have moved travel protection for emergency medical services and evacuation from ‘optional’ to ‘obligatory’,” Richards said.