Gen X Travelers to Lead 2021 Pandemic Recovery

As the U.S. travel industry begins its long recovery from the pandemic-driven disruptions of 2020, Generation X—ages 35-54—will lead the resurgence, according to Omnitrak’s TravelTrak America, a profiling program that surveys 9,500 U.S. households every month.

“Even with 30-plus years of experience in travel data and analysis, we’re finding surprises and interesting trends among U.S. travelers as the industry works its way through the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Chris Kam, president/COO of Omnitrak and the lead researcher of Omnitrak Compass.

Among the key findings in Omnitrak Compass, a new report analyzing historic and current monthly travel survey data from TravelTrak America are:

  • Pre-pandemic data for 2018-2019 show “Active Gen X” travelers—typically in the workforce, engaged in family, community and social activities—tend to spend more per trip and travel in larger groups than baby boomers or millennials (ages 18-34).
  • While baby boomers (born 1946 to mid-1960s) report greater financial stability and remain interested in travel, they remain most concerned about travel safety.
  • Drive vs. Fly: Pre-pandemic, Americans of all age groups opted to drive rather than fly by a factor of five to one. TravelTrakAmerica data show this gap is expected to widen further in 2021 as drive travel demand recovers significantly faster than air travel demand.
  • COVID-19 vaccine availability remains key, with active travelers most likely to be among the “ASAP Vaccinators. Among those who have traveled within the last year, more than four out of 10 (43%) surveyed in January said they plan to get the vaccine as soon as it is readily available. Of these “ASAP Vaccinators,” nearly half (45%) plan to take a leisure trip by car in the coming year.
  • Money Matters: By Q4 2020, millennials reported the greatest weakening of their financial conditions, with 45% saying they were less able to take a leisure trip vs. a year earlier. About 33% of generation X said they were less able to travel, compared to 30% of baby boomers.
  • Leisure travelers will lead the way, with business travel lagging considerably. Recovery in business travel to prior levels is not expected until 2024.

Omnitrak Compass provides an overview of 2020, the industry’s “Lost Year” in which U.S. travelers responded to the pandemic initially with denial, then with panic and acceptance. Domestic travelers appeared ready to continue normal travel patterns in March 2020; by May 2020, panic set in and the number of travelers with near-term travel plans dropped to 40%. In the fourth quarter of 2020, early signs of revived trip planning and interest in travel glimmered on the horizon.