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This summer, we will see a historic shift in travel, with leisure travelers who now have had their vaccine driving demand and hotel occupancy continuing its upward trend.

MMGY Travel Intelligence, MMGY Global’s research and insights division, has released findings from the 2021 Spring Edition of its Portrait of American Travelers showing that the Traveler Sentiment Index (TSI) rose to 119 (pre-pandemic levels). It’s proof that U.S. adults, many of whom will have had their vaccine, are thinking much more positively about travel than they have been in the past year. In the next 6 months, MMGY Global predicts, weekend leisure travel demand will be so significant that it will push leisure demand to weekdays and displace corporate and meeting travelers.

“We are calling this ‘reverse compression,’ ” said MMGY Global’s CEO Clayton Reid. “We think trip volume will not only be led by leisure demand but that fare and rate strength will also come first from consumers and second from business, even in market environments and periods where that just doesn’t happen.”

That prediction is backed up by optimistic hotel occupancy forecasts fueled by the successful rollout of COVID-19 vaccine and the passage of the Biden-Harris stimulus package. In the  the February edition of Hotel Horizons, CBRE Hotels Research forecasted an average national occupancy level of 43 percent during the first half of 2021, accelerating to 55.1 percent in the second half of the year. Upper-priced properties will see the fastest growth in 2021 and the industry is expected to return to 2019 RevPAR levels in 2024.

Safety concerns will continue to affect demand, although not slowing the increase in travel intent. Despite the positive signs, safety remained below its pre-pandemic levels in the MMGY Global survey, lingering 12 points lower on the TSI than it did in February 2020.

The pandemic has also had a profound impact on travel behaviors. Travelers are showing preference to outdoor destinations rather than cities and expressing an increasing focus on the impact of their travel. This sentiment is more evident among younger travelers, who showed greater willingness to pay more for travel brands that demonstrate environmental responsibility than their older counterparts. Overall, 83 percent of travelers indicated they were open to changing some aspect of their travel behavior to reduce their impact on the environment, including using less single-use plastics while traveling.

A portion of this article appeared on our sister magazine’s site, Recommend.com

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Barbara Scofidio is editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In 25 years of covering the industry, her articles have spanned topics ranging from social media to strategic meetings management. She is currently the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee and was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of Site, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. A familiar face at industry events, Barbara often leads panel discussions or speaks on topics close to her heart, such as green meetings or how the industry can help combat human trafficking. She is also on the board of ECPAT USA, the human trafficking organization. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.

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