COVID-19 Research Update


February 12, 2021

Hello, Industry Friends!

Are you staying warm out there? BRRRRR! This has been quite the cold stretch we have experienced, and it sounds like temperatures will be even more brutal this weekend. Stay safe!

Here is our monthly COVID-19 Research Update for you. The latest insights are showing:

  1. The severe repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic heavily impacted the travel economies of every state and territory, leading to a 42% decline in national travel spending in 2020
  2. South Dakota was the 4th best performing state in the country for year-over-year percent change in hotel occupancy, decreasing only 21%, and surpassed only by MS (-15%), ID (-20.6%), and MT (-20.6%).
  3. The pandemic hit the travel industry harder than any other sector in the country representing 39% of all jobs lost since February of 2020. The Business/Convention/Trade Show segments were hit the hardest with a decline of 77%.
  4. 63% of Americans have plans to travel in the next six months, up from 57% in mid-December.
  5. 41% of Americans now support opening up their community to visitors, up from 32 in early December.
  6. For the first time ever, optimism about the course the pandemic will take in the United States over the next month significantly outweighs pessimism.
  7. American travelers’ primary motivations for taking their next trip are far and away to relax and escape stress and spend time with family.
  8. When asked where they want to go on their trip, Americans want to visit small towns and rural destinations/attractions, cities or metropolitan areas, beach destinations/resorts, national parks, state and regional parks, and mountain destinations.
  9. The last weekly Travel Sentiment Survey, conducted February 5-7, showed that Americans are more open to travel inspiration than during any other period in the last 11 months (6.0/10).
  10. Since March, U.S. households have saved $1.4 trillion, partially due to the inability to spend it on travel and leisure. This, along with pent up demand for vacationing, points to travel being the #1 key industry to lead to an economic recovery.
  11. Leisure will be the first travel segment to rebound followed by business travel, conventions/meetings and international.

Thank you to our research partners for providing this information: H2R Market Research, UberMediaTourism Economics, Destination Analysts, STR, U.S. Travel Association, Arrivalist, Miles Partnership, MMGY Travel Intelligence, ADARA, and Longwoods International.

If you ever have questions about the research we are sharing, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us. Kirk Hulstein oversees our research efforts and can always be reached at [email protected]

As we have done so often over the past 10 months, this is another reminder to be as diligent as ever about health, safety and hygiene protocols in your places of business. This resource page on contains great guidance. The U.S. Travel Association has also created easy and important steps every business can take to make sure they are adapting their operations to protect employees and visitors. Check out “Travel in the New Normal” health and safety guidance.

Wishing you, your teams, and your loved ones a Happy Valentine’s Day from your friends in the Department of Tourism! Stay well!

All our best,
Jim & Team

Jim Hagen
Secretary of Tourism



Department of Tourism COVID-19 Resource Page
State of South Dakota COVID-19 website