Google Trends is an absolutely wonderful big data platform. It is definitely a wormhole that can quickly turn into a time suck of an evening. For those of you unfamiliar with the platform, it basically measures the popularity of various search terms with 100 being crazy popular and 0 being virtually no one searching. The terms are also relative to the timeframe you choose and whether you compare it to any other terms.
With this said, I dug a bit into what the travel world is showing using some of the more popular companies here in the States. The first company I looked at was Expedia, which is a multi-facet platform that allows you to book hotels, rental cars, flights, packages and more. Like most of the industry it was trending well until the beginning of March. Like other travel platforms they saw a huge spike the second week in March, when people started cancelling their trips and they could do so penalty free, for the most part.
Expedia, like most other travel brands, bottomed out in the beginning of April and have slowly been making their way back to a somewhat normal search volume until early June. When the threat of a second wave of COVID-19 popped up in the news with cases breaking out mostly in the south and west the volume plateaued and has started creeping down.
So how has this carried over to the flight market? Well, let's take a look at the cities of Philadelphia and Pittsburgh to reveal a glimmer of hope. Unlike the global brand Expedia, you've seen interest in flights to these two major cities continue to creep up. Is this mainly because Pennsylvania has done a relatively good job of slowing down COVID-19 or is it just being the least ugly girl at the dance? Pennsylvania still has its problems, but at least it isn't Florida, Texas or Arizona. The second visual is an example of Miami, FL's traffic starting to drop back down in the last couple of weeks.
How does this compare to the airline industry as a whole? Let's take a look at Southwest Airlines (below), where we see much of its momentum has been halted in the previous couple of weeks. Even with an advertising campaign going on, the threat of disease has won out. Hopefully, they can bounce back soon. Everyone seems to be itching to travel.
Now let's finally look at a major hotel brand in Hilton. How has that done to bounce back in a brutally down market? Hilton has a done a good job of creating momentum in a market with limited appetite for travel. However, it appears to be at a sort of fork in the road where it could stay steady and continue to creep up or tank, much like what we're seeing in Expedia and Southwest Airlines.
To leave you with a good taste in your mouth there has been a resurgence in the outdoors and short day trips as seen below. This is encouraging to see that people are starting to dip their toes back into the water.
About the Author
Andy Rupert is a Penn State (B.A. John Curley Center for Sports Journalism 08') and a Southern Miss (M.S. Sport Management 09'). He has spent his whole career working in sports and tourism digital marketing and metrics.