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Mental Wellbeing Just as Important as Physical Wellbeing When It Comes to Post-Pandemic Travel, New Study From Collinson Shows

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on May 5, 2021

  • 73% of travelers worldwide said they’ll prioritize their mental wellbeing when they travel more than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic
  • 81% of global respondents said the COVID-19 pandemic has heightened their concerns about the impact travel was having on their physical wellbeing
  • US travelers the most stressed in the world prior to pandemic, and fear the situation will be worse next year

PLANO, TX– April 14, 2021: While physical wellbeing has been at the forefront of all discussions around the recovery of the travel sector, new research from global traveler experiences expert Collinson has found that travelers are as worried about their mental wellbeing as they are their physical wellbeing. 

The global COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected a growing number of American’s mental health, and this new reality is impacting how people are thinking about travel. Today about 4 in 10 adults in the U.S. reporting symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder in January 2021, up from only 1 in 10 reporting similar symptoms in 2019. Collinson’s recent survey research has found that nearly three quarters (73%) of travelers worldwide have said they’ll be prioritizing their mental wellbeing more when they travel now than they did before COVID-19. While there was already a concern among travelers about the impact travel was having on their physical wellbeing, 81 percent went on to say the pandemic had heightened these concerns. Despite there being a pent-up demand for travel globally, over two thirds (67%) of global travelers think travel post-pandemic will be more stressful in the current climate. When asked what travel brands could do to help the situation, 42% of passengers said they value travel offerings that show there’s consideration for their mental health on their journeys. Half of those surveyed also said they wanted the same acknowledgement for their physical health.

Overall, responses from U.S. based survey participants mostly aligned with results from other countries with physical wellbeing being listed as a main concern from respondents, who largely wanted to steer clear from other passengers in order to get a good airport experience.  Interestingly, before the pandemic, travelers from the U.S. were the most stressed of all survey respondents – and many are worried the situation will get even worse. Some 70% of U.S. survey participants said they thought travel would be even more stressful than it was before the COVID-19 pandemic – once again higher than the global average.

The findings, taken from two sets of research, one conducted pre-pandemic and the other during the pandemic, show that passengers are looking for visible health and hygiene measures once they begin traveling again, such as hand sanitizers throughout the airport (63%), and the enforcement of mask wearing (66%). 

When asked why they might be hesitant to travel in light of COVID-19, the top reason people gave was that they were worried they would need to quarantine either on arrival or return (51%). Wanting to avoid long quarantine periods is likely a reason why passengers see testing on arrival as an important ingredient to their travel experience (83%). But interestingly, a similar 82% of respondents said that pre-departure testing was also important, which indicates that COVID-19 testing has now crossed the line from being a government pre-requisite for travel to some destinations, to an element that people want to see in order to give them the confidence to take to the skies once more.

More Americans are beginning to travel again following the widespread rollout of COVID-19 vaccinations across the U.S., coupled with updated guidance released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) on April 2 recommending that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves.  In fact, on April 5, American Airlines reported that the company's bookings have already leaped to 90 percent of what they were before the pandemic.

Ultimately, passengers are looking for a seamless, stress-free experience, with social distancing measures in place from check-in to arrival, coupled with a quick and efficient journey. As such, 36% of respondents said they were willing to pay for fast-track security, while 38% would pay more for a free seat next to them on the plane, and 30% would pay more for extra leg room.

While 87% of people said social distancing was important to them as they move through the airport, the same proportion of respondents (87%) specifically said they wanted access to socially distanced spaces in which to ‘de-stress’ and ‘relax away from the crowds.’ In fact, in some countries, including the UK, U.S., Russia and Australia, more people said they wanted access to somewhere to relax, than the number saying they wanted somewhere to get some distance. Yet the association of stress with travel is by no means solely linked to the pandemic. Even before Covid-19, nearly half (43%) of holidaymakers reported feeling stressed at least at one point while traveling, and a similar number (45%) admitted they would call in sick from work the next day to recover from a trip. 

“The importance of mental health on the journey is perhaps surprising but equally a welcome insight into what travelers are looking for as the travel recovery continues to gain ground with new testing and vaccination regimes, explains David Evans, Joint CEO at Collinson. “This is a way for the travel industry to look at its offering to consumers, allowing travel brands to understand what consumers want and what the industry needs to act on to rebuild traveler confidence.” 

Collinson commissioned the two pieces of research, of 18,500 travelers in 2019 and 12,600 in 2020. The company works with partners from across the travel ecosystem, including airlines, airports, and hotel groups as well as travel loyalty program providers and premium credit cards that lead with travel benefits. 

“Collinson believes it’s now more important than ever that all parts of the travel ecosystem come together to help restore confidence in travel. It cannot simply be up to airports and airlines,” said Sheryl Pflaum, President, Americas at Collinson. “All businesses that both form part of the travel journey, and rely on the sector, must come together to solve some critical challenges. We produced “The Return Journey” report to help bring the ecosystem together so all relevant parties can use the insights to help recovery through building one great journey experience, rather than operating as different, individual – and sometimes stressfully disjointed – parts.”

“It is well-established that the travel industry has been devastated by the pandemic, impacting everything from trade and economic growth, to hundreds of thousands of jobs in the industry worldwide. While there are some positive signs for travel sector recovery, the only way to make it a success is to understand existing traveler needs and fears, and how these have been compounded by the pandemic”, Evans continues. “It’s so important the travel industry recovers, and even more important that it’s able to do so in a collaborative and informed way.”

“The research shows that allaying people’s concerns around their mental wellbeing could be the key to rebuilding traveler confidence. While, of course, physical health concerns are heightened during this time, so too are those around the impact of travel on mental health – and both must be responded to. By working together on the issues highlighted in this study, anyone with a vested interest in travel can help make changes now to ensure the industry thrives again in the future.”

About the Data 

Data collected from a total of 18.5k travelers in 2019, of which 17k of these were leisure travelers and 9k travel for business (some respondents answered from both a leisure and business travel perspective). The research was carried out Australia, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Russia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Singapore, the UAE, the UK, and the U.S. On average, leisure travelers took 2.24 trips per year and business travelers 2.34. 

Data collected from a total of 12,607 travelers in 2020, of which 11,159 were leisure travelers and 7,904 travel for business. The research was carried out in Australia, Brazil, China, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Russia, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Singapore, the UAE, the UK and the US. 

About Collinson

Collinson is a global leader in the provision of traveler experiences including airport lounge access and medical and security assistance and travel medical services. Collinson’s traveler experiences include the world’s leading airport lounge and experiences program, Priority Pass, as well as travel insurance, identity assistance, flight delay, international health and travel risk management solutions.

Collinson has over 2,000 employees operating out of 20 locations globally, all working to deliver a broad range of traveler experiences that ensure the safety, welfare, and comfort of 55 million people as they travel for business and leisure around the world. Its travel medical and security assistance business unit has more than 55 years’ experience in the delivery of international medical assistance and emergency care, including the handling of pandemics such as Ebola, Zika and the coronavirus. Last year alone, Collinson responded to over 95,000 emergency calls, managed over 40,000 medical cases and conducted over 3,000 aero-medical evacuations across the 170 countries it serves. We work with clients including: American Express, Cathay Pacific, CBA, Mastercard, Radisson Hotel Group, UnionPay and Visa.

For media enquiries, please contact:

Susan MacLaughlin – Golin 
smaclaughlin@golin.com  |  972-213-7940

Ramani Nemani – Collinson
ramani.nemani@collinsongroup.com  |  469-241-6820