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Online Trends

Published August 28th 2020

Travel Shaming, Travel Fear, and the Many Challenges the Travel Industry Faces This Year

Using a mix of social and survey data, the Brandwatch React team investigates the impact of travel shaming and how consumers are feeling about jet-setting in 2020

Summer usually marks a rush of vacation pictures shared on social media timelines around the world. But this year newsfeeds have been looking a little indoorsy.

Today we’re investigating ‘travel shaming’, as it relates to vacations. What is it, and what’s the potential impact?

Travel shaming can be loosely defined in the context of the pandemic as feelings of guilt, or judging someone else, because of decisions to go on vacation despite potential safety issues.

A June study by Ketchum found that 67% of people would judge others for traveling before it was considered “safe”, while more than half expected to censor their social media posts to avoid being “travel shamed” themselves.

Muted online discussions around vacations

If people are censoring vacation posts it’s certainly showing in the data.

Our Consumer Research platform showed that, compared to average volumes across 2017, 2018, and 2019, mentions of holidays and vacations this year are a long way behind.

Mentions were down 65% in July 2020 compared to the average for the previous three years, while mentions in April, May, and June were down 48%, 44%, and 37% respectively.

On top of the decrease in mentions, the vacation conversation in 2020 is more likely to be negative in tone than it was last year. 38% of posts were categorized as having a negative sentiment, driven in part by conversation shaming people for going away despite the crisis.

On the other hand, there’s still a significant proportion of the conversation that our emotion analysis classified as joyful. There are still plenty of people sharing their vacation experiences online with joyous abandon. Using our Image Insights capabilities, we were able to see that beaches, the wilderness, and mountains were key scenes in vacation photos shared online. There are notably fewer people sharing pictures of their busy city breaks (which could be far more susceptible to shaming).

Travel confidence

Travel shaming could be one reason not to travel (or, at least, not to talk about travelling). But confidence in travel safety is obviously also a huge factor when it comes to consumers making vacation decisions in 2020.

Confidence in travel has been falling for some time. One of our Qriously surveys, conducted between July 6 and July 13, asked 4,093 people in Australia, China, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, the UK, and the US how their travel behavior had changed, if at all, as a result of the outbreak.

It found 36% of respondents had either cancelled or didn’t book a vacation because of Covid-19. This marked a decrease of four percentage points in comparison to the first time we asked back in May.

In a more recent survey we asked 4,266 respondents from the same eight countries, “once the outbreak has ended globally, do you think you are more likely to travel internationally or domestically?”. The results are a little more cheerful for the travel industry than those above, but they’re not great.

We found that, even when the outbreak has theoretically ended, only 26% of consumers think they’ll travel both internationally and domestically. That figure is rising, but it’s not exactly pointing to a culture of jet-setting in the near future.

It’s complicated

The topic of vacationing is a complicated one for consumers. Not only do they need to deal with changing travel restrictions and potential quarantine measures, consumers have to brave travelling in close proximity to others and potentially face social judgment for venturing out.

Brands can help quell worries around the opposing forces outlined above by being clear about their Covid-19 guidance, and maintaining frequent, up-to-date communication with customers through all their owned channels.

What do you think? Let us know @BW_React, or if you have a data question/request fire us a line react@brandwatch.com

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