While the COVID-19 pandemic is still ongoing, a semblance of normalcy is returning in parts of the United States as businesses begin to reopen. According to Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention, 52.7% of Americans have now received at least one dose of the vaccine and about 44% are now fully immunized. As a result, the detection tower Store intelligence data shows U.S. consumers are starting to plan their trips once again, leading to a 123% increase in app installs in this category in May to 24.7 million, more than double the same month in the year last.
The travel category sees a rebound
In the first half of 2021, travel app installs are expected to reach approximately 124.7 million in U.S. app stores, up 35% year-over-year from 92.6 million in the same period. last year. The travel industry has been hit hard by the pandemic globally, and in the United States, facilities fell 36% in the first half of 2020, compared to 144.3 million in the first half of 2019.
While the first travel app downloads in the United States are expected to increase from 1H20, the category is still in the midst of a recovery, as 1H21 installs will only reach about 86% of the observed adoption over the course of the same period in 2019.
Major U.S. Airlines Downloads Increase 311% YoY in May
Among the travel application subcategories covered in this analysis, airlines experienced the strongest growth from 2020. The five most downloaded airline applications in the United States in May—American Airlines, Delta, South West, United, and Mind– climbed to 2.6 million combined installations last month, up 311% from around 632,000 in May 2020. That figure was also slightly higher – by around 4% – than the 2.5 million downloads recorded by top five U.S. airline apps as of May 2019.
The top five airline apps in the United States are expected to collectively reach 12.8 million downloads in 1H21, up 64% year-on-year.
Vacation booking apps such as Expedia, Hotels.com, Booking.com, Price line, and Hopper saw their combined U.S. facilities grow 300% year-on-year to 3.3 million last month. The five most downloaded such apps in the United States also saw the largest increase among the various travel app cohorts compared to May 2019, rising from 65% to 2 million that year. These apps are expected to grow 87% year-on-year in H1 2021 to reach 16.6 million downloads in the US
Best Apps for Host Families and Hotels See Growing Demand
Last month, Airbnb and Vrbo saw their adoption in the United States climb 38% year-on-year to 1.8 million. As of May 2020, the two apps together reached 1.3 million downloads in the United States. This showed no change from the previous year, likely because consumers viewed these foster families as safer and socially distant options.
Unlike Airbnb and Vrbo, major U.S. hotel brands saw a drop in facilities in May 2020, when downloads fell 63% year-on-year to 242,000 from 660,000 in the previous year period. Consumer interest increased last month, with U.S. installations of these apps increasing 258% year-on-year to 867,000, a figure up 31% from May 2019.
The increase in downloads for hotel brands could also be due to the innovations that many franchises have rolled out to attract remote workers. Programs such as Work from Hyatt now offer extended stays for members as well as one-day office space, while other brands such as Marriott and InterContinental Hotels Group have launched monthly subscription plans that allow consumers to stay in any accommodation in their networks.
These apps from top hotel brands in the United States are expected to reach around 4.6 million downloads in the first half of 2021, double the amount of last year. Airbnb and Vrbo are expected to reach around 11.3 million, up 53% from 1H20.
Traveler confidence varies around the world
Of the top 10 countries with the highest vaccination rates and populations over 20 million, Canada has the highest vaccination rate with approximately 65 percent of its population having received at least one dose according to Our world in data. However, travel app installs since the start of the year have only reached about 43% of pre-pandemic levels.
In other countries, the national immunization rate does not always match the rebound of travel app installations. For example, although only around 29% of Argentina’s population has received at least one dose of the vaccine so far this year, travel app adoption there has reached 80% of pre-pandemic levels, the highest among the top 10 countries.
In the United States, the vaccination rate reached about 53 percent for at least one dose, and U.S. travel apps recovered about 77 percent from adoption before the pandemic.
The renewed consumer interest in travel in various markets is encouraging. However, the COVID-19 pandemic is ongoing and the industry still has many challenges to overcome. The disparity between vaccination rates and the adoption of travel apps shows that other variables are factored into consumers’ decisions to travel. Industry leaders will need to keep innovating and hopefully as more vaccines roll out around the world, consumers will start to feel more confident about traveling.
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