Blog Post

Insight: Pandemic-Driven Travel: How COVID-19 Influenced 2020 Tourism Trends

By: Jennifer Leaver

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

Exactly one year ago, my teenage daughter and I were anxiously awaiting our summer humanitarian trip to Thailand—something that we had been planning for over six months. One week later, everything changed.

In early 2020, COVID-19 arrived in the U.S. and seemed likely to stay a while. To slow the spread of this new virus, government leaders enacted travel bans, airlines canceled flights, and many hospitality-related businesses closed their doors. The entire world scrambled to find quick solutions to the sudden problems this novel coronavirus created. It soon became clear to me: Thailand was not going to happen. Neither was an April work trip. Nor a fall trip to the East Coast. What also became clear was that travel “as we knew it” was changing.

So, how exactly has the COVID-19 pandemic affected Utah travel trends and visitation?

First, travelers took to the roads instead of the skies. In 2020, air travel was perceived as too risky due to prolonged