Innovation Blog

Air vs. Auto: A Glimpse into Post-Pandemic Traveling Trends

It goes without saying that the pandemic has tremendously changed the way we live now. How we work, shop, eat, socialize, exercise, all of these basic tenements of life have on some level been altered or modified to accommodate the present circumstances. Our ideas on life have also been altered and modified in kind. What we thought we couldn’t live life without, well, we are. What we thought we could never change, well, we did. Throughout the last year, our mentality was forced to adapt as frequently as our daily lives, and as such, it is now proving difficult to predict what we’ll keep and what we’ll toss aside when the dust settles. Will the adjustments we begrudgingly made become habits? Will current attitudes seep into post-pandemic thinking?

One major area of life over which these questions loom large is travel. I think we can all agree that traveling is at the top of the to-do list once the pandemic is over, but that’s about as far as consensus goes once we delve into the nitty-gritty details of actually going about traveling again. The risk of exposure robbed us of our casual, unthinking approach towards traveling and trained us to pause and consider our safety every time we left the house. Moreover, it created a stark divide between private and public transportation, valorizing the former and vilifying the latter. Nowadays, with so many conflicting opinions on the dangers of traveling coming from all different directions, the tough task of making a judgement call on the topic has fallen to all of us as individuals.  

Babcox Media’s recent consumer study, “Consumer Study: Look Back at 2020/Covid,” sought to explore this varied response to pandemic and post-pandemic travel and investigate whether any shifts in attitude or behavior towards traveling occurred over the course of 2020. After surveying over 400 consumers from different age and gender groups, researchers discovered that the pandemic significantly altered people’s views on various modes of transportation. One such shift in sentiment was found in regard to leisure travel, specifically air travel for vacation or leisure purposes. 44% of respondents reported that they will continue to substitute auto travel for air travel, while only 5% said that they will be using more air travel. 30% stated the pandemic has had no affect on their preferences, and another 22% stated it hasn’t affected their preferences because they don’t fly for vacation or leisure.

Source: Babcox Data

As marketers in the automotive aftermarket space, we can’t help but feel excited by these stats. Everyone favored auto travel in the last twelve months because we were given no other option; the entire aviation industry was more or less grounded the moment Covid-19 became a global problem. Yet, the fact that almost half of these respondents still see themselves choosing cars over airplanes for travel, even as the pandemic (slowly) winds down, communicates a great deal of game-changing information for us in the industry. It not only signals the potential for an uptick in revenue within the auto sector, but it also more generally offers us valuable insight into the post-pandemic consumer mindset. The continued preference for auto over air travel suggests that safety will remain top of mind for many shoppers moving forward—safety as defined by one’s ability to maintain distance, privacy, and total control over one’s physical environment. Cars, thankfully, check all those boxes, and it is now up to us to harness these trends and make the most of them as we transition to a post-pandemic world.

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