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COVID Update Consumer Feedback

COVID UPDATE

CONSUMER FEEDBACK

BY DEBORAH WEBSTER, JOSEPH ST. GERMAIN, & PHILLIP DOWNS1

Consumers’ Feelings About Travel During COVID-19

This study charts consumers’ feelings about travel and travel advertising during the COVID-19 pandemic. The tourism industry has not been immune to negative impacts from external influences. Pandemics such as SARS or economic disruptions such as the 2009 global economic crisis have had significant, but relatively temporary, impacts on global and United States tourism.

Natural and man-made disasters certainly have negative, yet typically more localized, impacts. The Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 had an immediate impact on potential visitors’ perceptions of Florida as a destination. Yet, relatively few potential visitors, only 2% to 4%, cancelled trips to Florida during the following 6-month time period because of the oil spill.2 Negative connotations of Florida from Deepwater Horizon as a destination essentially evaporated within 6 months.

COVID-19 is a different phenomenon in the travel world. Certain facts are known: COVID-19 has accounted for over 850,000 deaths;3 it has afflicted over 25 million people globally;4 there is no viable vaccine; and treatments are not guaranteed to diminish the health impacts of the virus.

Conversely, there is considerable uncertainty regarding COVID-19. Consumers yearn to resume their normal lives, yet concern about short-term and lasting health effects from COVID-19 impacts all decisions, especially travel. Moreover, consumers’ reactions to COVID-19 are not uniform across generations and geography.

To assess consumers’ feelings about travel and travel advertising, The Space Coast Office of Tourism engaged Downs & St. Germain Research to conduct three waves of Consumer Sentiment surveys.5 The goals were to assess consumers’ feelings about traveling and their appetite for travel marketing during COVID-19. The surveys assessed consumers’ reactions to specific advertising graphics and messaging. Unlike other studies that use national data to estimate how consumers to a specific destination feel, this study focused on potential visitors to the Space Coast who live in key feeder markets.6

Trust

Who do consumers trust to tell them whether or not it is safe to travel? While much information emanates from the White House, governors’ offices, and local governments, consumers trust the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) most to give them accurate information. As the graph below illustrates, trust in the CDC, and most other sources, fell from April to June, perhaps as mixed messages about COVID-19 were disseminated by various sources, some reputable, some not. It is interesting to note that considerably fewer than half of consumers trust all sources of information about COVID-19 except the CDC. Over time, credibility of social media news sources approached credibility of traditional news sources although both were at or below 20%. Perhaps reflecting distrust of experts and science, one’s physician is trusted as a COVID-19 source by only one 1 in 3 consumers.

PLANNNING VACATIONS

C O V I D U P D A T E June ...................................20% ................................... 18% .........................................14%

July ..................................... 19% TRUSTED SOURCES ON COVID-19 100%.................................19% 75% 76% 68% 65% .................................23% August ......................................15% 50% 25% ..................................14% ..................................18% September-October ....... 23% 43% 36% 36% 30% 38% 34% 43% 36% 30% 0 .....27% CDC ...30% State Government My Doctor Federal Government 100% November-December ..........20% 75% ........ ........ 20% 21% 50% 25% In 2021 33% 39% 29%........ 38% ................33% .................32% 21% 26% 23% 25% 23% 20% 12% 16% 16% 0

Local Government Friends & FamilyApril 13th-14th May 4th-5th Traditional News Media News on Social Media

April 13th-14thJune 16th-17th May 4th-5th June 16th-17th

SIGNPOSTS FOR SAFE TRAVEL Signposts for Safe Travel SAFE TO TRAVEL 50% 40% Large Attractions Reopen.................. 45% 76% 36% In April when most destinations were closed, signposts that consumers looked 30% 20% 10% .........................63% ................................... Restaurants & Retail ...71% 23% 46% 18% to for assurance that it was safe to travel included large attractions reopening and restaurants and retail shops reopening. 14%18% 17% 12% 16% Over 7 in 10 consumers in April kept their eyes on attractions, restaurants and retail shops. As these establishments began to reopen and the number of COVID-19 cases continued to rise, fewer consumers viewed these reopenings as harbingers of safe travel, and began waiting on medicine to combat effects of COVID-19 and a vaccine as signs that it was safe to travel.End of September End of October End of November In 2021 2% 4% 9% 2% 2% 4% 19% 22% 28% 2% 5%2% End of June End of July End of August 0 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0 Businesses Re-open ............52% ...................41% Beaches are Open ............... 48% ..........................37% ..........................38% Major Sports Events Restart ............................57% .............................. 53% .........................................30% Resumption of Normal ...............44% Religious April 13th-14th Prayers/Services ....... May 4th-5th35% June 16th-17th ............. 25% Moving Target April 13th-14th In April, 3 out of 4 consumers believed INTERACTION WITH TRAVEL MEDIAMay 4th-5th 50% 44% June 16th-17th it would be safe to travel by the end of 40% 30% 20% 10% 34% 36% 29%33% 34% 15% 26% 28% summer. Only 1 in 5 thought it would not be safe to travel until 2021. By June, however, just over half of consumers thought it would be safe to travel by the end of summer, and 16% 10% 18%18% 24% 25%22% 18%14% 0 3 in 10 thought it would not be safe until None Online Travel Videos Travel Article sometime in 2021. Travel Show on TV/OnDemand Travel Book / Guidebook Destination Video Livestream 34 | VisitSpaceCoast.com April 13th-14th May 4th-5th June 16th-17th

C O V I D U P D A T E April 13th-14th May 4th-5th June 16th-17thBeach Destination.......... 47% ............46% ....... 54% 50% 45% Ability to Drive to Destination .....................48% ..................51% SAFE TO TRAVEL Beach Destination 40% .................. 36%53% 30% 20% Outdoor/Spacious Destination .. 43% ........45% ......50% 23% 18% 18% 17% 12% 16% 14% Ability to Drive to Destination

End of June 10% 0 Rural Setting or Smaller Town ............................30% .......................... 32% End of July End of August Outdoor/Spacious Destination 50% ...........................32% 40% 30% 20% Destination in My Home State....28% .......32% ....... 31% 19% 22% 28% Rural Setting or Smaller Town

End of September 2% 4% 9%10% 0 Destination Within My Local Area .................................27% ............................... 32% ............................... 30% End of October 2% 5%2% End of November 2% 2% 4% In 2021 Destination in My Home State

April 13th-14th May 4th-5thWould Only Travel if Offered a Discount...................................... 22% ....................................20% June 16th-17th Destination Within My Local Area Conversely, as time passed, more consumers were engaged in planning vacations. In April, 54% indicated they were planning vacations by the end of summer. By June, that figure had increased to 60%. In April 4 in 10 consumers said they were not planning vacations until 2021, while that figure dropped in June to 3 in 10. In April, 56% of consumers were actively interacting with travel media, especially online travel videos. By June, the percentage INTERACTION WITH TRAVEL MEDIA 16% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 36% 10% 18%18% 26% 28% 15% 44% 34% 33% 34% 29% 24% 25%22% 18%14% ....................................26% April 13th-14th May 4th-5th June 16th-17th Would Only Travel if Offered a Discount 0 June of consumers who interacted with travel media increased to 64% as travel articles and travel shows on TV/OnDemand joined online travel videos as the preferred travel media. None Online Travel Videos Travel Article Travel Show on TV/OnDemand Travel Book / Guidebook Destination Video Livestream April 13th-14th May 4th-5th June 16th-17th PLANNNING VACATIONS ...................................20% ................................... 18% .........................................14%

July ..................................... 19% .................................19% Safety is Message 1 .................................23% SAFE TRAVEL ACTIVITIES June 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0 Going To a Beach Going To a Restaurant 29% 46% 13% 55% 23% 42% August ......................................15% ..................................14% ..................................18% September-October ....... 23% .....27% ...30% November-December ..........20% ........20% ........21% In 2021........ 38% ................33% Safety is first and foremost in consumers’ minds when thinking about traveling. Consumers want accommodations to introduce a host of safety precautions and standards. Leading the way is addition of hand sanitizing stations as 3 in 4 consumers demand these. Feelings about hand sanitizing stations did not change from May to June. Second on the Staying At a Hotel Going To an Outdoor Attraction Staying In a Vacation Rental Home 10% 17% 32% 22% 34% 13% 22% 36% 14% July August September-October 70% .................32% list of safety precautions is the sight of 65% November-December 60% staff actively cleaning common surfaces. In 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 12% 19% 6% 4% 22% 8% 13% SIGNPOSTS FOR SAFE TRAVEL April 13th-14th May 4th-5th June 16th-17th 8% 11% VisitSpaceCoast.com | 35 May and June, 2 out of 3 consumers wanted to see this happening in accommodations. 9% 10%6% 3% 7% 8% 42% 25% In 2021 0 Taking a Visiting a Taking A Cruise Attend a Live Traveling None of These

End of September End of October End of November In 2021 2% 4% 2% 2% 4%2%2% 0 April 13th-14th May 4th-5th June 16th-17th TRUSTED SOURCES ON COVID-19 PREFERRED MESSSAGING New Safety/Cleaning C O V I D U P D A T E 36% 36% 30% 38% 34% 43% 36% 30% Protocols.....................45% Prioritizing Safety..........................17% INTERACTION WITH TRAVEL MEDIAThat It’s Safe to Visit Again...............15% Government 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 36% 44% 34% My Doctor 29% 26% 15% 33% 34%Federal Government 28% 16% 10% 18%18% 24% 25%22% 18%14% Promoting Social Distancing/ Staying Home......................................11% Open/Uncrowded Spaces ....................11% Information About Incentives/Deals .........6% Virus Updates...........................................6% 26% 23% 0 25% None 23% 20% Online Travel 12% 16% Travel Article 16% Travel Show on Travel Book / Destination Video Community Engagement/Assistance ........6% Information About Opening.......................5%

Friends & Family Traditional News Media Videos News on Social Media TV/OnDemand Guidebook Routine Destination Advertising Livestream ................ 4% April 13th-14th May 4th-5th June 16th-17th May 4th-5th June 16th-17th

SAFE TRAVEL ACTIVITIESPREFERRED MESSSAGING PREFERRED DESTINATIONS

70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0 29% 46% 13% 55% 23% 42% Government 30% New Safety/Cleaning Protocols.....................45% Prioritizing Safety..........................17% That It’s Safe to Visit Again...............15% Promoting Social Distancing/ Staying Home......................................11% SAFE TO TRAVEL 14%18% 17%18% 12% 16% 14% 22% 34% 13% 22% 36% Beach Destination.......... 47% ............46% ....... 54% Ability to Drive to Destination .....................48% ..................51% ..................53% 10% 17% 32% Interest in staff wearing face masks increased from 56% in May to 63% in June as more localities and some states moved to require masks in public spaces during this time frame. Going To a Beach Going To a Restaurant Staying At a Hotel Going To an Outdoor Attraction Staying In a Vacation Rental Home 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0 Taking a Domestic Flight Visiting a Theme Park Taking A Cruise Attend a Live Sporting Event Traveling Internationally None of These 12% 19% 6% 8% 11% 4% 9% 10%6% 3% 7% 8% 65% 42% 25%22% 8% 13% April 13th-14th May 4th-5th June 16th-17th News on Social Media 16% Open/Uncrowded Spaces ....................11% Information About Incentives/Deals .........6% Virus Updates...........................................6% Community Engagement/Assistance ........6% Information About Opening.......................5% Routine Destination Advertising ................ 4% PREFERRED DESTINATIONS Beach Destination.......... 47% ............46% ....... 54% INTERACTION WITH TRAVEL MEDIA End of October End of November In 2021 2% 2% 4% 19% 22% 28% 2% 5% End of July End of August May 4th-5th June 16th-17th Outdoor/Spacious Destination .. 43% ........45% ......50% Rural Setting or Smaller Town ............................30% .......................... 32% ...........................32% Destination in My Home State....28% .......32% ....... 31% Destination Within My Local Area .................................27% ............................... 32% ............................... 30% Would Only Travel if Offered

Social distancing is another safety precaution that 6 in 10 consumers expect from accommodations where they might stay. Nearly as many consumers also expected temperature checks for staff and posted cleanliness standards. Alternating room vacancy, which garnered support from only 1 in 3 consumers in May, was supported by 43% of consumers in June. 28% Ability to Drive to Destination .....................48% ..................51% ..................53% Outdoor/Spacious Destination .. 43% ........45% ......50% Rural Setting or Smaller Town ............................30% .......................... 32% 16% 10% 18%18% 26% 28% 15% Travel Article Travel Show on TV/OnDemand Travel Book / Guidebook Destination Video Livestream 24% 25%22% 18%14% May 4th-5th June 16th-17th myriad of public activities. In April, only PLANNNING VACATIONS a Discount...................................... 22% ....................................20% ....................................26% April 13th-14th May 4th-5th June 16th-17th ...........................32% 1 in 4 consumers felt safe going to the

Despite increasing COVID-19 cases, increasing numbers of consumers from April to June said they felt safe doing a In 2021 Destination in My Home State....28% .......32% ....... 31% Destination Within My SAFE TRAVEL ACTIVITIES beach, a figure that jumped to 55% by June. Only 13% were comfortable going to a restaurant in April, while by June 46% June ...................................20% ................................... 18% .........................................14% July ..................................... 19% 36 | VisitSpaceCoast.com Local Area .................................27% ............................... 32% ............................... 30% Would Only Travel if Offered 10% 17%22% 34% 13% 22% 36% 14% 32% .................................19% .................................23% August ......................................15% 14%

70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0

70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0 55%

42%

23%

SAFE TRAVEL ACTIVITIES

46%

29% 13% 36%

22% 14% 34%

22% 13% 32%

17% 10%

Going To a Beach Going To a Restaurant Staying At a Hotel

Going To an Outdoor Attraction

Staying In a Vacation Rental Home

65%

22% 8% 13%

Taking a Domestic Flight 19%

6% 12%

Visiting a Theme Park 4% 8% 11%

Taking A Cruise 6% 9% 10%

Attend a Live Sporting Event

April 13th-14th May 4th-5th June 16th-17th

3% 7% 8% Traveling Internationally 42%

25%

None of These

felt comfortable doing so. While numbers moved in the right direction from April to June from a tourism perspective, only 36% of consumers felt comfortable staying in a hotel in June and slightly fewer were comfortable visiting an outdoor attraction. Perhaps the most positive sign for the tourism industry was the percentage who did not feel comfortable doing any public activities – this figure dropped from 65% in April to 25% in June. Future Travel

There is considerable pent up demand as 58% of consumers say they will take a long weekend or vacation within a month after it is deemed safe to travel. Of course, that begs several questions – When will it be safe? Is it safe already? Who will tell us it is safe?

There appear to be 3 types of consumers with regard to COVID-19 and travel: 1. Those who are ready to travel or have already traveled, 2. Those who are cautiously optimistic about traveling, and 3. Those who are not even thinking about traveling. Percentages of consumers who are in each group are fluid, yet each segment is sizeable.

When people do travel, they feel safer going to a beach, driving to their destinations, and going to outdoor attractions and destinations. Over time, the percentage of consumers who feel safe engaging in these types of travel behaviors has increased steadily. Discounts are not playing a major role in travel decisions – safety is paramount.

While participants in this study were chosen from key feeder markets for the Space Coast, they were not necessarily predisposed to visit the Space Coast. Nonetheless, 3 in 10 claimed they would consider the Space Coast in a post COVID-19 trip. Given the relative sizes of Orlando and the Space Coast as travel destinations, one would expect considerably more to prefer to go to Orlando. Yet only 37% preferred to visit Orlando.

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The fact that only marginally more consumers would go to Orlando vs. the Space Coast reinforces consumers’ preferences for beach destinations and destinations that are less crowded during and after COVID-19. Marketing During COVID-19

Beginning in April and continuing through June, a majority of consumers wanted advertising for destinations and attractions to focus on what companies were doing to help during the COVID-19 pandemic. The percentage of consumers who were willing to be exposed to “normal” advertising increased from 11% in April to 24% in June.

A majority of consumers are ready for businesses to resume “normal” advertising, that is, advertising designed to motivate individuals to travel to a destination. In April, 82% of consumers were willing to see “normal” advertising before the end of summer. That figure dipped ever so slightly to 80% when consumers were contacted again in May. By June, only 62% of consumers were willing to see “normal” advertising for destinations and attractions by the end of summer.

Average Score Top 2 NPS 6.7 33% -7

By June, 1 in 5 consumers did not want to see “normal” 7 advertising for destinations until 2021. Testing Travel Messaging

Consumer Sentiment surveys were also used to test advertising messaging, that is, what message will best motivate consumers Average Score Top 2 NPS 6.3 29% -16 to travel during these trying times? In the second survey wave, three print ads were

Average Score 5.7 tested with different Top 2 25% graphics and different NPS -31 headlines (average scores on a 10-point scale are shown in parentheses): • Road Trip Travel Guide (8.1) • Tranquility (8.3) • Happiness comes in waves (8.2)

Consumers’ reactions suggested that all three headlines were appropriate.

In the third survey wave, four print ads and one 30-second video were tested with two different headlines. Ads along with their top-two box scores8 average scores,9 and Net Promoter Scores10 (NPS) are shown.

Average Score Top 2 NPS 6.8 36% -1

The 30-second video featuring an array of activities in the Space Coast scored highest on all three measures. Consumers reacted positively to images of face masks and cleaning practices throughout the video and felt the beach and hotel looked inviting and relaxing.

Average Score Top 2 7.2 39% Among the print ads, ad 4 with an image of the beach and the

NPS +10 headline “Happiness comes in waves” scored highest. While the beach was pleasing to consumers, they asked for more detail and context in the ad.

Travel

Prior to COVID-19, consumers relied heavily on word-of-mouth, past experience, and social media/internet searches when planning vacations. During COVID-19, Google searches still accounted for the most vacation planning activity, while destination websites scored second. Prior to COVID-19, destination websites were not a major player in consumers’ search for vacation information, rating somewhere in the middle of the pack. During COVID-19, consumers rely on destination websites to provide key information about what is happening at the ground level, that is, are special travel restrictions in place, must one wear a mask, are attractions open, are restaurants open, etc. Destination websites are a much more frequently used planning tool during COVID-19 as consumers attempt to figure out what the lay of the land is within destinations they are considering visiting.

Over the summer as the pandemic played out, consumers relied more on hotel and airline websites to learn about local restrictions, what was open, etc. Talking to family or friends, a source of vacation planning that is typically near the top of vacationers’ planning sources, was rated 6th throughout the three surveys.

As they contemplated future vacations, consumers felt more comfortable booking at hotels than with staying at friends and relatives. Preference for hotels outnumbered preference for short-term rental platform such as Airbnb or VRBO by about a 2 to 1 margin.

Incidence of travel increased from 12% in May to 19% in June. Based on other studies, it is estimated that about 25% to 30% of people are traveling as of the first week of September. Conclusion

Despite COVID-19 about a quarter of consumers are comfortable traveling. There is a major emphasis on safety. For example, they expect accommodations and transportation companies to use an array of cleanliness practices. In advertising, consumers expect destinations to promote that they are emphasizing safety. Consumers feel safer traveling to beaches and to destinations with more space. Consumers rely more on destinations’ websites during COVID-19 to assess local restrictions, openings, ground rules, etc. Consumers trust the CDC to give honest information about COVID-19. Finally, the consumer sentiment surveys provided invaluable information about messaging and graphics that resonate with consumers during COVID-19. n

1 Deborah Webster is Research & Analytics Director for Florida’s Space Coast Office of Tourism. Joseph St. Germain, Ph.D. and Phillip Downs, Ph.D. are President and Senior Partner, respectively, for Downs & St. Germain Research.

2 Perceptions of Florida: Waves 1 – 5, VISIT FLORIDA, August 2010 through February 2011. Conducted by Kerr & Downs

Research. 3 As of September 1, 2020.

4 As of September 1, 2020.

5

Internet surveys were conducted in April, May, and June 2020 with 350 potential visitors to the Space Coast. 6 Atlanta, Tampa, Miami, Orlando, Jacksonville, and West Palm

Beach.

7 “Normal” advertising, that is, advertising designed to motivate consumers to visit.

8

A 10-point scale was used. Top 2 boxes refer to scores of 9 and 10. 9 Average score is simply the arithmetic average of all scores on the 10-point scale. 10 Net Promoter Score is the sum of the 9 and 10 ratings, minus ratings of 6 or lower.