Today's Takeaways
From SCT's director of marketing systems & insights, Ariane Hiltebrand
This week’s traveler sentiment update by Destination Analysts reveals that American travelers are now optimistic about travel and 64% are in a travel readiness state-of-mind. We are seeing interesting findings about spring travel plans with half of these Spring Break period travelers planning to use an airplane for their trip and heading more than 500 miles away from home.
American's Spring Break Travel Plans
As of February 28, 2021 (From Destination Analysts)
Destination Analysts Key Findings to Know
From Destination Analysts' Travel Sentiment Report
  • It appears Americans believe that the light at the end of the tunnel is getting close. COVID-19 anxiety is at a low. Meanwhile, optimism about the course the coronavirus situation will take in the next month reached another record high, with 49.1% feeling things will get better.

  • Although a majority still feel unsafe with international travel and conventions/large group meetings, the proportions avoiding conventions (58.5%) and international travel (67.1%) are at record lows.

  • Nearly two-thirds feel at least somewhat confident they can travel safely right now, and travel guilt fell to 39.9%.

  • 63.3% of American travelers have themselves or know someone who has already received a vaccine. In fact, over one-third of Baby Boomer travels report they have already received their COVID-19 vaccine.

  • Now, a record 36.9% of American travelers—including 41.6% of Millennial age travelers—have made travel plans specifically in anticipation of more widespread vaccination.

  • Over 60% of American travelers did some kind of travel dreaming and/or planning in the last week alone, including 15.1% who made travel reservations.

  • A growing percentage of American travelers say they will be taking at least one leisure trip in the next three months—now at 54.6%.

  • More than 84% already have tentative trip plans for the remainder of 2021, with June through October the peak months for trips.

  • When asked to imagine that they were traveling at some point in the next few months and if they would generally prefer to stay in a hotel or a home rental through a service like Airbnb, 48.1% had stronger preference for hotel—up from 41.3% in March 2020—while 19.8% showed a strong preference for home rental—down from 30.3% last March.

  • Looking towards the conclusion of the COVID-19 pandemic, 71.3% of American travelers will continue to wear masks even after they are fully vaccinated. When asked to imagine how they would feel on their first post-vaccine trip if the place/destination/attraction they were visiting still required masking, 65.0% said they would feel “fine,” if not “great.” 
Events and Meetings Update
From SCT's group business development manager, Samantha Paull
Throughout the pandemic the Group Business Development team has continued to keep a pulse on the events and meetings industry, tracking insights and trends. As we look toward the return of in-person meetings and events, we wanted to share some of the resources we are tracking, as well as some of the trends that have arisen.

A key data point is the state-by-state and competing destinations allowances, as they expand and retract, from which we look to uncover trends and takeaways that we can share with partners. A couple resources for reviewing state-by-state restrictions and allowances that have proved useful are: Northstar Meetings Group and Meetings Mean Business. As we see other destinations hosting events and meetings, we look to learn from their successes and any learning opportunities that arise.

We also leverage our partnership with Cvent to track sourcing, group size, and the share of business within each industry segment and looking at the trends and areas where Sonoma County is ideal to meet needs. We have also continued to engage with MPI, PCMA, ILEA and many other organizations and associations that serve and support meeting and event professionals, as we want to be sure we support you in meeting their needs, both in the booking process as well as the new and changing event requirements. As you well know, there are many factors that contribute to when group business will return, and we continually review planner surveys and sentiments.

Trusted resources that the meetings and events industry is utilizing related to planning guidance, as they look to plan amid the pandemic, include: CDC and Event Safety Alliance. Additionally, planners and groups continue to look at indicators of event safety and feasibility when considering contracts and planning for in-person events. Those include:
  • State and Local allowances both for event type/capacity, as well as travel restrictions and quarantine requirements before/post travel
  • Vaccination distribution and how rapidly the population has access and overall level of vaccination
  • Sanitization and protocols, both for the physical event space and the individual attendees
  • Mitigating financial risk, alongside health, safety and duty of care

When looking at trends, there are many that have arisen and we continue to track trends as they evolve, as was shared in our recent town hall, the following are key trends that have arisen:
  • Flexibility: As events return there will be a need for flexibility from venues on attrition, cancellation, food & beverage requirements/minimums
  • Technology & Bandwidth Infrastructure: Some level of virtual is here to stay with a cross-channel content strategy for in-person and virtual attendees, and it will be important to ensure bandwidth and technology is primed to meet streaming needs, as well as the greater volume of attendee devices requiring connectivity
  • Focus on Safety: A focus on safety standards may lead to new requirements and new integrations, such as: thermal scanning/temperature checks; more frequent sanitization of the event space; staggered install and strike, and altered program schedules; sanitization stations for attendees; added signage, such as event traffic flow; altered food & beverage service
  • Sustainability: With a return to in-person and hybrid events, there will be a continued focus on sustainable events, in areas such as: reducing food waste, using sustainable materials, adopting more green practices
  • Altered Event Format/Needs: Attendees will interact differently, they may still network, but at a distance; when including meals, it will be distanced, to-go for in-room or outdoor consumption; and as many elements as possible will need to be touchless, minimizing contact

We look forward to continuing to share trends and insights as we move through the tiers of re-opening and to support you in welcoming the return of group business. The Group Business Development team is available, please do not hesitate to connect if we can answer questions and be of support.
Website Insights for
During the period of Feb 19-25, 2021, the top content that people were engaging with on the website was: Sonoma County Restaurant Week, Coronavirus page, Bodega Bay and coastal content, 13 wineries you should know, 13 wineries with gardens, mustard flowers, lodging articles like glamping and unique inns, along with restaurants (outdoor seating), and several itineraries such as the 48 hours getaways series.
Our blog saw traffic for 12 new restaurants, black owned businesses, what to expect after the fires (still lingering fire worry!), and 5 eco-friendly wineries. In terms of website visitor origin cities: San Francisco is #1 and represents 13% of the total traffic this past week. Los Angeles is #4, San José is #6, Sacramento is #7, Oakland is #10. We see 5 out-of-state cities in the top 25: New York, Chicago, Seattle, Reno and Las Vegas.
STR Tracking for Sonoma County
Things to Note:

  • STR is comparing “Weekly Year Over Year.”
  • 47 of the county’s 125 hotels report to STR.
  • The average from other destinations includes: Napa, Palm Springs, Monterey, South Lake Tahoe, and Vallejo/Napa Valley.
  • For more information on how data is calculated due to hotel closures, please refer to this document.
Smith Travel Research (STR) is the recognized leader in hospitality industry benchmarking around the globe. Powered by the world's largest hotel data sample, they deliver confidential data, accurate and actionable insights, and comprehensive solutions to empower decisions. Discover how STR collects data, how it is calculated, and a glossary of terms, by clicking here