On The Road Again: New American Wanderlust

Trends / Realness
Images By Tang Ming Tung
Gabrielle Pedro Fredrick
Aug 31, 2021
$935,000,000,000. Nine hundred and thirty‑five billion dollars.

That’s how much money the global travel industry lost in 2020, thanks to the COVID‑19 pandemic.

Yet many Americans still long for the freedom and fun of leisure travel. Getty Images’ own Visual GPS data finds that almost half of Americans are looking forward to traveling again once COVID is under control and restrictions start to ease.

With people expected to do more traveling once restrictions are lifted, ‘traveling abroad’ has specifically appeared as a new significant search this year. CNBC reports that 65% of Americans plan on traveling more in 2021 than they did before the pandemic restricted travel.
On the road again: The rise of domestic travel

While general travel searches (such as ‘travel,’ or ‘vacation’) are down likely due to restrictions at the peak of the pandemic, Getty searches related to local travel are trending up. With international restrictions still in place, Americans have had to be more creative with their domestic vacation plans. Terms such as ‘road trip’ and ‘staycation’ have grown above expected, while searches for specific national parks such as Sequoia National Park and Grand Canyon National Park increased over 100%. In fact, over half of Americans took a staycation in the United States in 2020.

Visual GPS has shown that over a year indoors and social distancing practices have Americans yearning for the open air, with images of activities such as dining or socializing – specifically outdoors – being what Americans look forward to the most post‑COVID. Analysis of Getty Images’ top imagery shows images set outdoors are more popular to consumers, showing the wide breadth of settings and activities missed out on during the isolation of the pandemic.

As we navigate the ever‑evolving nuances of pandemic travel, we will have to adapt how we visualize it. Changes in vacation trends, culture, and population data have contributed to a changing image of who is traveling domestically and as we look to revitalize the travel industry, we should take note of who these people are. Here are some travelers to consider featuring as we eagerly look to hit the road again.
The growth of diverse ethnic backgrounds

According to the latest census, nearly 1 in 4 Americans now identify as either Latinx or Asian. Asians and African‑Americans are 8% more likely to vacation in the US at least once a year and are not currently proportionally represented in top travel visuals ‑ or top visuals in general. Representation of different ethnic backgrounds should strive to be representative of the growing population in the United States, especially as the population growth in the past decade is attributed to entirely Latinx, Asian, Black, and multiethnic populations.
Visibility begets loyalty

Despite the fact that 1 in 4 Americans live with a disability and 18 million people in the US identify as LGBTQ+, there is virtually no quantifiable representation of these groups in any of the top selling travel images in 2020. Americans with disabilities spend an estimated $19 billion a year on travel and globally, LGBTQ+ travelers contribute an estimated $211 billion to the travel industry.

Going beyond revenue, Visual GPS data shows that 73% of American consumers prefer to buy from brands who represent lifestyles like theirs in advertising and communications. For those with frequent traveler or loyalty programs, it revealed that 80% of Americans are more likely to be loyal to brands whose business practices align with or support their values. Taking the time to include marginalized groups will prove to be beneficial as the travel economy begins to rebuild amidst the pandemic.
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