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 have increased anxiety over contracting the virus. However, with vaccinations steadily increasing, most travelers are optimistic and in a ready-to-travel mindset. People are planning summer travel and currently lean towards out-of-state destinations such as California and Florida.
Destination Analysts Key Findings to Know
From Destination Analysts' Travel Sentiment Report
  • In looking at feelings about pandemic-safety in the post-vaccine world, American travelers still appear to believe in vigilance to prevent spread. 73.5% believe you still need to wear a mask after you are vaccinated. In addition, over three-quarters (76.0%) believe that proof of vaccination should be required for international travel.

  • In terms of devoting income to travel, 38.9% say that right now is a good time for them to spend money on their leisure travel and 41.7% expect to spend more on leisure travel in the next 12 months compared to the previous year.

  • A record 66.6% report being in a ready-to-travel mindset, nearly two-thirds report being highly open to travel inspiration and 61.4% exhibit strong excitement at the prospect of traveling now.

  • Two-thirds of American travelers say they have trip plans in the next 3 months—yet another pandemic record.

  • Urban destinations also continue to show recovery, with a pandemic-record 41.3% of those traveling in the next 3 months saying they will visit cities.

  • 62.5% report they are traveling for leisure this summer; this is up 26 percentage points from 2020. Summer travelers currently have 2.2 trips planned for the season on average, with July the peak month.

  • The desire to stay close-to-home appears to have retreated, as 70.4% of summer travelers say they will be traveling out-of-state and 8.1% say they plan to go abroad this summer. 
Events and Meetings Update
From SCT's group business development manager, Samantha Paull
We are anticipating gathering guidelines from the CDPH this week, which we will be sure to share along with a breakdown of how they apply for Sonoma County event allowances. While we await the detailed guidance and effective date of the additional release, we do believe that there will be similarities to the previously released Outdoor Seated Live Events and Performances guidance.

In the meantime, there are a few insights we wanted to share, as we continue to look at how planner and group interests are tracking.

Group Booking Insights: As was reported in the latest group business insights by Cvent, the largest source from which we receive group leads, the U.S. has hit its highest point since March 2020, so momentum is moving in the right direction. Additionally, the trend toward smaller events has continued to shift back to normal with larger meetings being sourced. Although the cancellations are still higher than usual, the gap has been narrowing, and while it has yet to close, it has not widened.

Although Corporate is not yet showing an increase, the wedding market continues to perform stronger than usual and greater than was seen last fall. See below for trend notes with regards to the wedding market.

Also highlighted is the booking trend showing warmer destinations outpacing other locations. As we progress through spring and into the summer months, Sonoma County is an ideal destination for those looking to book in those warmer locations.

Wedding Trends: Even with a vaccine, many people will continue to be hyper-vigilant about health and safety and, as a result, virtual weddings are not yet outdated. For many of the couple’s loved ones their only experience of the ceremony will be delivered via technology, making social media a primary part of the wedding day. Wedding professionals can lean into this tech-driven trend by incorporating virtual services into their packages.

The pandemic was not the only event to impact the world in 2020 and a fight for social justice created an urgency in the discussion about equality. Going forward, businesses will need to be intentional and genuine with their commitment to diversity and how they present their brand to the market.

Among the top trends on the horizon is being termed the “pintimate wedding,” a personalized and intimate micro wedding. These weddings tend to be a fusion of formal and informal with a more expansive ‘per head’ budget than was available with a larger guest list and the focus will be on guest experience.

Sequel weddings are also on the horizon, with those who chose to “wed now, party later.” It gives the couple the best of both worlds, an intimate, micro wedding ceremony followed by the large party in the future.

As event guidance becomes available, we will share the details of those restrictions and allowances. We will also continue to track insights and trends to continually share those in support of your group booking efforts. Please be sure to connect with our Group Business Development team as questions arise and if we can be of support, as we prepare for and return to welcoming meetings and events. 
Website Insights for sonomacounty.com
During the period of March 19-25, 2021, the top content that people were engaging with on the website was: coronavirus page, wineries, and outdoor content: Bodega Bay, 13 wineries you should know, glamping and unique inns, several itineraries such as the 48 hours getaways series, flowers, etc. Our blog saw traffic for dream drives in Sonoma County, 4 secret pop ups, restaurants with views, spring activities, what to expect when visiting now, etc.

San Francisco is #1 and represents 14% of the total traffic this past week. San José is #3, Los Angeles is #4, Sacramento is #5, Oakland is #8. We see 3 out-of-state cities in the top 25: New York, Chicago, and Seattle.
STR Tracking for Sonoma County
Things to Note:

  • This is the second week compared to last year that hotels were closed due to the pandemic. Please note percentages will continue to be comparatively high in the coming weeks and months. 
  • 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