Travel in a Covid-19 world: Reader Survey May 2020

Latest survey of the Wanderlust audience reveals current attitudes to travel, plans for 2021 and the determining factors in choosing destinations and travel companies

Reasons to be Cheerful​

Over 60% of travellers hoping to travel this year

Over 60% of travellers intending to book their 2021 trips THIS year

But the current FCO advisory is a bigger impediment to travel than quarantine on return


Here at Wanderlust we are busy planning for life after COVID-19, and it seems that many of our readers are doing the same. In a time when pessimism abounds the desire to travel remains strong, even if it is accompanied by a degree of caution.

How do we know? Well we are pleased to share with you the results of the second in a series of Wanderlust Readership surveys.

While there is now an acceptance that overseas travel may be less likely in the short-term, the Wanderlust audience is still dreaming and planning further out as much as ever.

This survey was conducted from 28-31 May 2020 on the Wanderlust website and is based on 2914 respondents. 

84% of respondents were from the UK, the rest from the USA, Europe, Australia and India. They are a mix of magazine subscribers and website users.

Have your views of travel changed?

Passion for travel remains undimmed overall with 68% of the 2,914 respondents as excited about travel as ever, and with a fifth determined to tick off their wish list as soon as possible. Despite the uncertain times, just a third of respondents are feeling cautious about when and where they travel

68% remain as passionate as ever about travel

When do you think you’ll be travelling again?

When asked how long it will be before they are travelling again our respondents were optimistic with over 60% hoping to be travelling this year. A fifth want to travel as soon as lockdown is lifted (whenever that is) and a quarter of those surveyed (24%) are hoping to be back on the road by the Autumn. Just a fifth dont think they’ll be travelling until 2021.

61% expect to be travelling this year

Are you planning / researching your next trip?

75% of those surveyed are reading and researching travel as much, if not more, than they usually do. The majority of Wanderlust readers (61%) are actively planning or considering their next trip.

61% are in planning mode

Will you travel even if we need to self-quarantine on return?

The urge to travel is so strong that 37% of UK travelers are prepared to self-quarantine for 14 days upon return.

Over a third of travellers are prepared to self-quarantine!

Will you still travel if there is an FCO advisory against it?

Only 8% of UK travellers are prepared to travel while the FCO advises against all but essential international travel

The FCO Advisory is the biggest impediment to overseas travel

How has Covid-19 affected your choice of destination

During such uncertain times our readers are putting greater value on the familiarity and security provided by planning trips closer to home. Confidence in domestic and short-haul destinations (47%) leads over long-haul or bucket list destinations (25%). Respondents also ranked safety and hygiene (26%) over value for money.

Domestic and short-haul lead the way for their initial travels
I will look for destinations which have coped well with the pandemic. I will consider the country’s medical facilities.
I think I will be considering the needs of the destination as a priority and won't go somewhere that isn't yet ready to welcome tourists.
Will only go to places that can certify cleanliness and sanitization with proper cautions in place
I think I will be much more cautious in choosing destinations because of any issues getting back home should there be another lockdown

Which of these do you think you’ll travel to in 2020/2021?

With closer to home trips being foremost in respondent’s plans until confidence returns, it’s no surprise to see Europe (70%) and the UK (52%) lead the way in the respondents' travel plans. However, many are still looking further afield for this year and next with Asia out front (30%) but the other long haul regions performing very strongly too.

All regions of the world will see tourism return

Which types of trip will you be looking to do?

With a readership that is curious about the world it is no surprise that culture, history and heritage lead the way (55%) with wildlife and nature not far behind (51%).

Respondents are also looking to dip their toes back in the water with a city break (48%) or other short trip (26%).

Being a Wanderlust reader survey, it is no surprise that many are looking for adventure when planning their trip (40%) or trekking and walking (38%).

Tours incorporating various elements also show strongly at 32% as do road trips (32%).

Local culture and nature prove attractive options

How will you be travelling?

Nearly three-quarters of respondents will be making independent arrangements which is no surprise given the strong showing of domestic and close to home tourism. However, 41% will be joining small group tours, and 38% looking for tailormade arrangements.

Both group and tailormade travel being considered

What are you looking for from travel companies

Respondents are most concerned by the safety aspect of the trip but, not surprisingly, are also looking for flexibility with cancellations, deferments and amendments.

(*scale of 1-5 with 5 being the most important)

Safety and Flexibility are key
Choose tour operator / travel agent very carefully to make sure money is protected (having lost considerable sum this year)
I will be thoroughly researching any potential travel operator to find out how they treated consumers during the current crisis.
Health safety has to be a priority. Aircraft have always been less clean than many other forms of transportation but cleanliness and certification of such will be essential

When do you think you will be booking your travels for 2021?

With so many respondents already researching their future trips it is perhaps little surprise that over two thirds of them are predicting that they will book their 2021 trips this year.

Over two-thirds of respondents will be booking this year

Where would you NOT go?

It is no coincidence that the countries topping the list have had negative publicity on their rates of Covid-19 and handling of the crisis.

The UK figure may also include Brits who want to travel overseas rather than in their own country.

Where is on your wish list for the next two years?

While the USA tops the no-go league it also takes second place in the wishlist of where people do want to visit. Some responses detailed actual states, especially Alaska.

Japan is a perennial favourite with Wanderlust readers, was actively marketing its regions pre-pandemic, and has had positive publicity regarding its handling of the crisis.

Other destinations in the list are known for the great outdoors and for their eco credentials.

I feel VERY sorry for everyone in the travel business, both here and abroad, and will do all that I can to support them.
I am so passionate about travel that this event will not stop me from travelling, if anything it proves how short life can be so grab it with both hands!

Attitudes to Sustainable Travel

In a separate short survey in mid-May we asked readers about their attitudes to sustainable travel and how it affects their travel decisions

How important is sustainable travel to you?

By choosing to answer a sustainability survey we can presume that the majority of respondents will have an interest in the topic, plus Wanderlust magazine does state that sustainable travel is at the heart of everything we do, so it’s no surprise that only 6% of respondents say it’s not something they are particularly aware of.

Has the pandemic changed the way you feel about sustainable travel?

A third say they are more determined than ever to travel sustainably while over a half feel they are already good travellers.

It has made me appreciate all the more how important travel is to both myself and the communities and jobs that it supports globally. It has made me realise how fragile it can be and it's more important than ever to ensure that it is sustainable in the future.

Making travel choices...

There’s a shift towards considering flying less due to concern over carbon emissions (from 24% to 37%), and a higher number of respondents saying they would decide against a travel company if it had no sustainability creds (from 37% to 42%).

When you travel again how will you feel about your trips?

There is a strong feeling rom respondents that they want to help small businesses, communities and conservation with their travels; 45% of respondents ranked it as number one on importance

I will never take my freedom to travel for granted again, and will choose my trips more carefully
Travel is a wonderful life choice and to have that choice taken away during this pandemic has made me appreciate the travels I've already made and the trips I will be booking in the future. I'm very conscious on how the lack of tourism is affecting communities in areas where tourism is relied upon so heavily for family's incomes. I will be considering, for my next trip, how my travel choices can positively affect the communities in the places I visit - making a point to eat at certain local/independent cafes/restaurants, buying from independent shops etc where the money goes directly to the locals.