Exclusive: What 27,000 Frequent Travelers Really Think About COVID-19 And Travel

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Over the last two weeks, InsideFlyer has surveyed more than 27,000 frequent travelers about their expectations of travel companies and their willingness to support the travel industry during this difficult time.

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Here is a summary of the results:

Travel plans affected

83% of those surveyed indicated that a trip was canceled due to the effects of COVID-19 or that future plans until summer were affected.

Leisure and business travelers were surveyed, of whom over 90 percent are members of at least one airline or hotel loyalty program. Almost half (40 percent) of travelers also have elite status in at least one customer loyalty program.a black and white symbol with blue text

The majority of the participants (60 percent) stated that they make up to 10 trips a year. 40 percent of the respondents are classified as very frequent travellers who make up to 30 or more trips a year – be it for personal or business purposes.

Reliable customer service and refunds are a priority

If flights or hotel stays had to be canceled due to the coronavirus, almost 44 percent of respondents believe that reliable and fast customer service is the most important thing for travel companies to provide, even if the refund or issue of a travel voucher is not immediate.

More than a quarter (30 percent) of respondents said that getting a quick refund was their top priority. For 15 percent of the respondents, the option to rebook quickly is paramount because they have to travel despite the COVID-19 restrictions.

How loyalty programs can help their customers

45 percent of the participating travelers indicated that their top priority was for loyalty programs to extend elite status due to the current travel restrictions. In addition, the results of the survey show that cancelation fees are a significant issue, with 27 percent of travelers selecting free cancellations as their number one priority.

Expectations for future travel

Over half of the respondents (60 percent) would like to either book the exact same trip that they had to cancel due to the COVID-19 restrictions or extra trips to compensate for the canceled trips as soon as possible. Opinions differ widely as to when this will be: 66 percent of the survey participants expect that it will take up to six months before travel is relatively normal again, another 29 percent expect an even longer period.

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When asked how they would support the tourism industry in this difficult time, 59 percent of the participants stated that they were currently booking travel for fall and winter 2020. However, customers expect airlines and hotels to guarantee reimbursement of costs in case the booking(s) get(s) cancelled.

The data also shows that respondents are willing to help the industry in other ways too – for example: only contacting travel companies when it is absolutely necessary (20 percent); buying a voucher for future trips (12 percent); booking an award flight (12 percent).

At the same time, 30 percent of the survey participants stated that they would only spend money on travel again when it was absolutely clear that travel would be possible.

Bottom line

COVID-19 has already had a profound effect on global travel and it remains to be seen how things will change in the longer term. By connecting the voices of thousands of frequent travelers with travel industry leaders, hopefully this survey (and future ones) can help ensure that efforts are focused on the things that frequent travelers really care about.

You can read the full survey results here.

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