Strong Desire for Travel, but heightened sense of risks will impact speed of tourism recovery

Desire to travel has intensified over the past few years, and the top dream destinations are Italy, Canada, Australia, France and Switzerland; however, current risks associated with travel may impede on the ability of many to reach these destinations.

The author(s)
  • Uri Farkas Account Manager
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New York, May 22, 2020 – Memorial Day weekend has traditionally marked the start of the summer travel season in the United States. Whether travelers seek an exciting adventure or simply a place to relax; nowadays, it does not even matter if the destination is near or far. The world as we know it today is more accessible by air, land, and sea, than it has ever been before; and a growing number of people become empowered each year to fulfill their travel dreams.

This year was poised to be a record-breaking year for tourism in several countries until the COVID-19 outbreak spread, forcing shutdowns around the globe. In the United States alone, a recent Ipsos poll found that many have recently expressed their willingness to go out in public for essentials, but few are eager to fly on an airplane (29%). Many Americans (36%) have already changed their plans for travel this fall, and nearly nine in 10 (88%) perceive there to be risks associated with traveling on an airplane or on mass transit to one’s health. However, four in 10 (41%) Americans plan to travel this summer if it is allowed, and just as many (45%) said they are currently willing to stay in a hotel. While the future of the travel industry remains shrouded with uncertainty, these are initial signs that the indomitable human spirit, as well as our desire to travel, will eventually be rekindled.

Destinations around the globe have also become more appealing. According to our research, the overall intensity in desire to visit countries around the globe – if money was no object – has grown over the past half-decade. A longitudinal analysis of 50 Nation Brands Index (NBI) countries between 2014 and 2019 demonstrates how desire to travel has evolved: it declined between 2014-2016, increased between 2016-2018, and remained flat in 2019.

Desire to Visit - Overall Average Ratings

According to the responses of 120,000 global citizens in 20 different nations, the top-five most coveted travel destinations of the last five years have been:

Top 5 Destinations

On average, one in 10 global citizen reports having ever visited one of the measured NBI nations, with the most popular destinations being:

Most Visited Destinations

Many vacationing global citizens appear to be satisfied with their travel experiences in France, the United States, and Italy, as the intent-of-return rate is nearly 50% for those who have ever visited these destinations. The overlap in both lists demonstrates that the dream to visit Italy and France has become a reality for some. However, the remaining top-5 most desired travel destinations (Canada, Australia, and Switzerland) see fewer lifetime visits from global citizens - showcasing an apparent unattainability of these destinations. Instead, nations like the United States, Germany, and Spain, which rate lower on the travel desirability list, received more lifetime visits. 

The most common way of describing tourism in the measured NBI nations are “fascinating,” “exciting,” and “educational.” However, there is some variation by region: tourism in North America and Latin America and the Caribbean is mostly described as “exciting,” in Europe and Asia Pacific it is mostly seen as “fascinating,” while in Africa and the Middle East it is mostly thought to be “risky.” 

Word Associations

Managing perceptions, appeal, and desirability of travel destinations can be challenging; and over the past five years, we have observed the most overall ratings decline for desire to visit - even if money was no object - in nations with traditionally strong nation brands:

Greatest Decline in Desire

Conversely, over the same period, we have seen the strongest overall ratings increase for desire to visit - even if money was no object – for the following countries:

Greatest Increase in Interest

Future Research

The COVID-19 pandemic has clearly become one of the most significant events of our lifetime. It is also reshaping public perception of nations around the world, depending on how each nation manages the crisis. The full extent that the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic will have on tourism flows is still largely unknown, and the recovery process is expected to be slow and challenging – particularly for countries that are still progressively lifting lockdown restrictions and reopening their borders to world travelers. In an effort to better understand the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic on nation brands, 2020 Ipsos’ NBI will further measure and evaluate perceptions of how nations handle healthcare crises and its impact on perceptions and desire to travel. These findings, along with NBI 2020 ratings, will provide critical insight to nations working to manage their brands and restore their tourism sector quickly after the pandemic. Having a deep understanding of current perceptions, in the global context and in these turbulent times, can help guide future communications and marketing efforts for greater likelihood of campaign success.

For more information on this news release, please contact:

Jason McGrath
Senior Vice President, US 
Corporate Reputation
[email protected]

Uri Farkas
Account Manager, US 
Corporate Reputation
[email protected]

About the Study

The Anholt-Ipsos Nation Brands Index (NBI), collects over 20,000 interviews online in 20 panel countries with adults aged 18 or over each year. Data are weighted to reflect key demographic characteristics including age, gender, and education of the online population in that country each year. Additionally, race/ethnicity has been used for sample balancing in the U.S., UK, South Africa, India, and Brazil. Fieldwork was conducted from July through August every year.

The total nations measured by the survey between 2014 - 2019 are as follows, listed by region:

North America: Canada, U.S.

Europe: Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Flanders, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Northern Ireland, Norway, Poland, Russia, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, United Kingdom, Ukraine

Asia-Pacific: Australia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Description, Kazakhstan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand

Latin America and the Caribbean: Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Jamaica, Mexico, Peru, Puerto Rico

Middle East: Iran, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, United Arab Emirates

Africa: Botswana, Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa

About Ipsos

Ipsos is the world’s third largest market research company, present in 90 markets and employing more than 18,000 people.

Our passionately curious research professionals, analysts and scientists have built unique multi-specialist capabilities that provide true understanding and powerful insights into the actions, opinions and motivations of citizens, consumers, patients, customers or employees. We serve more than 5000 clients across the world with 75 business solutions.

Founded in France in 1975, Ipsos is listed on the Euronext Paris since July 1st, 1999. The company is part of the SBF 120 and the Mid-60 index and is eligible for the Deferred Settlement Service (SRD).

ISIN code FR0000073298, Reuters ISOS.PA, Bloomberg IPS:FP

About Simon Anholt

Simon Anholt designed and launched the Nation Brands Index in 2005. Since 1998, he has advised the presidents, prime ministers and governments of 56 countries, helping them to engage more imaginatively and effectively with the international community. He is recognized as the world’s leading authority on national image. Professor Anholt also publishes the Good Country Index, a survey that ranks countries on their contribution to humanity and the planet, and is Founder-Editor Emeritus of the Journal of Place Branding and Public Diplomacy. He was previously Vice-Chair of the UK Foreign Office Public Diplomacy Board. Anholt’s TED talk launching the Good Country Index has received 6 million views, and his more recent one launching the Global Vote, over a million. He has written five books about countries, cultures and globalization and is an honorary Professor of Political Science at the University of East Anglia. His latest book, The Good Country Equation, will be published in August 2020.

The author(s)
  • Uri Farkas Account Manager

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