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Travel: New Study Shows Impact of COVID-19 on Destination Organizations

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MMGY Travel Intelligence, in partnership with Destinations International Foundation, has released a new study that shows the ongoing impact of the coronavirus outbreak on North American destination organizations.

Key findings show that organizations expect coronavirus will have an extreme impact on their business over the next six months. The majority of organizations have canceled events and postponed marketing and sales efforts.

These were the first results released from the ongoing study, which is a series of bi-weekly surveys of North American destination professionals that track how this sector has been affected by COVID-19 and what shifts organizations are making.

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The first findings show that over the course of two weeks, the pandemic dramatically changed the sector’s outlook, operations and marketing spending.

During the first wave of the survey, which was conducted in early March, less than 20 percent of destination organizations reported reducing or postponing marketing spend and a similar amount reported restricting domestic travel for employees.

Now, in the second wave of the survey two weeks later, 80 percent of destination organizations surveyed have reduced or postponed sales and marketing spend. Sixty percent have asked employees to work from home.

The percentage of destinations reporting coronavirus-related postponements and/or cancellations of conferences, meetings or events surged from under 40 percent in Wave I to almost 100 percent in Wave II.

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“Destination organizations not only serve as representatives for the broader travel industry but as stewards of their communities,” said Jack Johnson, chief advocacy officer for the Destinations International Foundation. “This study allows us to support these organizations by creating a tool that shares up-to-date detail on how their peers are managing through this ever-changing process."

Destination organizations have shifted gears over the last two weeks and are now mostly fielding inquiries about coronavirus-related questions.

The number of respondents receiving 20 or more COVID-19-related inquiries a day rose from 4 percent in the first wave of the survey to 30 percent in the second wave. People are calling to primarily ask about event cancellations and attraction closings, as well as business-related functions such as conferences, conventions and business meetings.

“This is a rapidly evolving situation for our industry, and it’s important for destinations to make decisions based on facts and hard data as they begin to prepare recovery strategies,” said Craig Compagnone, chief operating officer for MMGY Global. “While there is no precedent for this situation, we know that travel has spiked following previous crises, and data will help influence how destinations keep travelers and communities informed until travel restrictions are eased and bookings return.”

The survey also asked destination organizations if they had planned for a situation such as a pandemic. Thirty percent of respondents stated that they had an emergency plan in place.

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