Lockdowns and other restrictions have put leisure travel on indefinite hold, dramatically changing traffic to destination websites and how DMOs are responding through digital marketing.
Check here for the latest data and analysis on organic website traffic, traffic driven by paid media, changes in DMO digital marketing spending and other indicators of impact on leisure travel.
Our initial reporting compares 2019 and 2020 Google Analytics data for 200 DMO websites across North America. We look at web traffic overall and separated into organic traffic vs. traffic driven by paid media ("paid traffic").
DMO Web Traffic Impact
The following charts update daily using our sample set of 200 DMOs. Depending on your connection speed, it may take several seconds for the data to load.
Overall Website Traffic
August 3 - 10 - The DMO industry's malaise in web sessions continues. After a briefly promising spike in YoY growth on Monday (driven more by an unexplained year-ago dip), they returned to their slight late-summer slide, which has been going on just slightly more steeply than it did a year ago. Sessions fell 5 percent from their level a week ago and sit in the negative mid-30s for annual growth still. Fly-market and local sessions have converged near -40 percent annual growth, while drive market sessions are doing better at -24 percent, matching the expectation that short, quick vacations are the most active part of the leisure market right now
July 27 - August 2 - Nothing major has changed, but overall web sessions did start to tick up at the very end of the most recent week after continued stagnation to that point. They've grown 2 percent since last Sunday and came in at -34 percent YoY growth on Sunday, with traffic from local users ticking up the hardest at the end of the week. This is encouraging, as local traffic has been the slowest to return throughout the shutdown. Regionally, the South and the Midwest contributed to the nascent upturn, another encouraging sign given their recent weakness.
July 20 - 26 - The industry has settled into almost eerie stability throughout July, with overall session numbers and year-over-year growth hardly shifting at all. All sessions dropped 4 percent across the week and were down 35 percent YoY yesterday. Little has changed by user distance, with drive markets perhaps gaining a little ground while locals have lost a small amount. Stasis reigns regionally as well, with a small downtick from Alaska the only notable development from last week.
July 13 - 19 - We saw more stability for DMO traffic this week, with all sessions rising only 2.4 percent from last Sunday through yesterday. Indeed, sessions have hovered around the -35 percent to -40 percent year-over-year growth range for a solid four weeks now, apart from the swings around the Fourth of July holiday. Little has changed among the component fly, drive, and local segments of overall traffic either, though in our regional breakdown, the Northeast continues to be strong, coming in less than 10 percent down year over year as of yesterday, with the virus largely tamed in that region.
July 6 - 12 - Taken as a whole, DMO sessions stabilized this week, coming in almost at almost the exact same total last Sunday and yesterday. Year over year performance remained fairly steady throughout the week as well, coming in consistently around 35 percent down from last year. The pattern of drive market traffic falling less than fly, which has fallen less than local, remained in place, and not much changed regionally, either. the four continental US regions are bunched relatively close together in percentage loss of sessions YoY, with the Northeast doing slightly better. Canada has sustained better performance for a few weeks now, though traffic there still lags the US.
June 30 - July 5 - It was another disappointing week for DMO traffic, with a much weaker July Fourth spike for US DMOs than in 2019 (understandable given the widespread cancellation of public events) and a general downward slant to traffic on top. Sessions fell 16 percent from 6/28 to 7/5 for all North American DMOs. Session levels swung harder around the holiday among users closer to the destinations in our dataset (local and drive markets rising higher than fly on 7/4 and falling further from 2019 levels), while all US regions suffered about the same effects. As things stand today, the Midwest and Northeast, where the virus is less strong, are consistently outperforming the South and West of the US.
June 22 - 29 - Looking at sessions from last Sunday to this, we find a small decline of 6 percent for North American DMOs. June is a month when traffic rises toward a summer peak, however, and so sessions are at their worst point since the middle of May in year over year, terms down about 40 percent from 2019 at the same date as of Sunday 6/29. Sessions from local, drive, and fly markets have all weakened over the past two weeks thanks to continued declines in the South, which is now behind all other US regions in YoY growth after leading for two months.
June 15 - 21 - This week, two forces have stemmed the tide of recent gains. First, Father's Day occurred on Sunday, but was a week earlier in 2019, and traffic was low on that day in both years as people tend to stay in for this holiday. The result was that last week's year-over-year comparison looked better and this week's worse.
The other force is the surge in coronavirus cases in places within the South and West. The South has been leading all regions in session growth for a couple of months now, even running positive in YoY comparisons. That changed halfway through the week as Florida and Texas in particular became hot spots. The result was that all sessions fell 16 percent from Sunday to Sunday. Regions besides the South have continued on a slow recovery trajectory, and the trend of drive- and fly-market traffic outpacing locals continued, though all three segments fell off.
June 8 - 14 - Week on week, growth in all sessions this for the 14th vs the 7th was a steady by modest 13 percent (average of 1.8 percent per day). A year ago, however, traffic actually fell slightly between the two corresponding Sundays so yesterday's YoY number (-20 percent for all sessions) was our best since the start of the North American lockdown. Furthermore, our shift from Saturday peaks to Sunday peaks post-Coronavirus means that YoY growth looks especially good on Sundays.
In a significant development, local traffic YoY growth surpassed fly for all sessions, although drive-distance users are still doing best. This trend does not bear out for organic traffic, so it may be driven more by direct, social, and referral sessions. Regionally, all US segments have drawn roughly even, except for the West, and Canada's recovery is slow.
June 1 - 7 - We're going to hold off on the champagne until each segment crosses the year-over-year break-even mark, but it was another excellent week for website activity for North American DMOs. All sessions grew 16 percent from 5/31 to 6/7 (2.1 percent per day). Among visitor types, fly-market users are still rebounding best (down just 21 percent YoY), though local users have caught up to those from drive markets. The South is still the strongest region, but its improvement has leveled off while all of the rest have begun to catch up.
May 25 - 31 - This week was the first in nearly two months without good news to report, traffic instead coming in mostly flat (-3.9 percent 5/24 to 5/31). However, last week included all of the planning phase leading up to Memorial Day, so we should expect some softening without the holiday boost this weekend. We'll watch for growth to resume this week. For all sessions, the South is still closest to finding normalcy, but the Northeast has pushed its way past the West within the continental US in terms of YoY growth.
May 18 - 24 - Overall sessions had another good week, pushing further toward normalcy (+20 percent from the end of the prior week, +2.6 percent per day). Drive-market web traffic has been growing faster than fly and local sessions since mid-April and is now the primary force pushing the recovery. Regionally, the US South is still the biggest success, while Canada's traffic recovery is still waiting on the launchpad.
May 11 - 17 - Last week may have been flat, but the one just ended has been the best for DMO web sessions since the crisis began. All sessions rose 30 percent from 5/10 to 5/17 (3.8 percent per day), with drive-market sessions growing fastest over the past couple of weeks. Regionally, the US south and Alaska continue to do well; other US destinations are growing slowly, and Canada remains far below normal traffic numbers.
May 4 - 10 - Gains from the past couple of weeks have levelled off. While trailing-seven-day sessions are still up, point-to-point they've declined -4 percent from the 3rd to the 10th. That said, they declined -7 percent between the same points last year, so by that comparison things are still improving. Alaskan destinations and the US south continue to outperform other geographic regions.
April 27 - May 3 - Overall sessions continue to recover, for the third straight week, although the pace of the recovery has not increased. All DMO sessions grew 15 percent over the past week and 2 percent per day. It seems likely that the first signs of a thaw in the shutdown created excitement that has not been matched by real travel opportunities yet. As the ice is broken, we hope to see traffic recovery bend upward and increase at an increasing rate.
April 20 - April 26 - Growth continued this week, at a slightly lower rate than last, with 2.2 percent increase per day on average and 16 percent for the week. Regionally, the recovery has been strongest in the US South, where several states have begun to end the shutdown. Recovery is stronger among visitors from fly and drive markets than locals, although all types have shown improvement in delivering sessions to DMO websites.
April 12 - April 19 - After some time of no major movement in web traffic, the first green shoots of recovery in DMO web traffic have appeared. We've seen about a week of steady growth, with all sessions rising 23 percent in total between 4/12 and 4/19. Whether this mini-trend will continue remains to be seen, but it's wonderful to have some positive developments to tend and encourage going forward.
March 17 - March 22 - After the first week of traffic decreases, DMOs saw a second, less severe, decline of -30.9 percent. Daily overall traffic bottomed out and stabilized at approximately a -66 percent decrease in daily traffic loss when compared to 2019.
March 11 - March 16 - This period saw the sharpest decline (-48.8 percent) in overall website traffic as major closures and news volume concerning the coronavirus pandemic increased.
January 1 - March 10 - DMOs were seeing overall average traffic growth of 17.74 percent when compared to 2019.
Organic Website Traffic
2020 traffic first dipped below 2019 levels on February 27 and appear to have stabilized down 64% year over year.
August 3 - 10 - Though they remain very slightly ahead of all sessions in YoY growth (-32 percent vs -35 percent), organic sessions slid 9 percent across the week and are close to running even with the average source of traffic after maintaining a lead throughout the the crisis. Drive markets have taken the lead in this channel as well as in generic traffic, and regionally, the West and Canada are rising while the South continues its slide.
July 27 - August 2 - Organic sessions closed the week at their closest to year-ago parity since late June, down less than 30 percent from last year's date. They did this thanks more to weakness a year ago than to strength now, with sessions rising 3.3 percent since last week. While locals drove the growth in all sessions, the improvement was spread across local, drive, and fly markets in organic traffic. All US regions except for Alaska did well, though the South did best.
July 20 - 26 - Organic sessions were even flatter than all sessions, falling half a percent from last week. Down 33 percent year over year yesterday, organic's convergence with all site traffic has been going on for over a month now. Locals remain far behind fly and drive markets, and the only regional development is a weakening of Alaska's previously strong performance (albeit in a small sample of destinations).
July 13 - 19 - With a small 1.5 percent decline from last week's level, organic search sessions were also largely flat for DMOs this week. At -34 percent, their year-over-year performance is virtually unchanged as well. Here also, stasis in the fly / drive / local breakdown gives way to a little more dynamism when we analyze patterns regionally, where the Northeast has broken even YoY as of yesterday. The other regions continue to perform as they have been.
July 6 - 12 - Organic search sessions fell 3 percent from last Sunday, remaining largely smooth throughout the week and concluding the period yesterday down 30 percent year over year. This drop continues to come mostly from local markets (down 50 percent vs around 20 percent for fly and drive). There is clear separation between the regions, with the Northeast doing best, followed by the West, the South, the Midwest, and Canada in order. Interestingly, Canada is doing fine in drive-market organic search traffic, nearly even year over year, but is still lagging the US regions overall because of weakness in the local and fly markets.
June 30 - July 5 - Organic search is again outperforming all sessions to DMO sites, down 27 percent YoY yesterday. Organic session totals fell 11 percent from last Sunday to this, with the same pronounced holiday swings seen in overall sessions. It would be fair to say that organic search has retreated to its performance levels of early- to mid-May with the virus still spreading quickly in destinations that had begun to reopen. The Northeast is now clearly exhibiting stronger organic session levels than the other continental US regions.
June 22 - 29 - The story is no better for organic search sessions, which after briefly breaking even YoY two weeks ago slipped 1 percent from last Sunday. Again, with growth being strong over the same period last year, yesterday's total came in at -37 percent YoY. All visitor types weakened, with every region but the Northeast (which held more or less steady) softening significantly when evaluated year over year.
June 15 - 21 - Organic search traffic trends matched those in all sessions, with the South receding significantly and the overall channel following suit (-21 percent Sunday to Sunday). In addition, whereas the West is doing reasonably well in all sessions, in organic search the region has lost ground. In happier news, the Northeast has continued its surge and is near YoY parity as the epidemic subsides there.
June 8 - 14 - Organic search traffic grew only 8 percent from the 7th to the 15th (0.8 percent per day), but as with all sessions, flatness a year ago plus the Sunday peak means that organic sessions drew within 2 percent of last year's level yesterday! This exciting development is driven by continued strength in fly and drive markets and a surge from locals, who are providing more traffic than they have in months despite remaining down 20 percent YoY. All US regions are doing well, even the previously lagging Midwest, which had a very strong weekend. The Northeast joined the South as the only regions with positive YoY growth.
June 1 - 7 - Organic search sessions have gone back to the strong growth of late April and early May (up 29 percent for the week, 3.7 percent per day), and yesterday came in down just 10.7 percent YoY. Within this segment, both fly- and drive-market segments broken even YoY over the weekend; only local traffic being down 28 percent kept organic search down overall. This can be taken as a sign that planning activity continues to improve even though in-market arrivals are still depressed.
May 25 - 31 - While organic search is still doing better than average DMO web traffic, it lost much of its lead this week, with both drive and fly markets falling off compared to last year while locals stayed fairly steady. Organic search sessions fell 17 percent since 5/24 with the holiday in the past. Regionally, the South and the West continue to be among the strongest regions, but the Northeast has put up the steadiest growth and is now under 30 percent losses for organic sessions YoY. The Midwest, unfortunately, is now clearly lagging behind the other regions.
May 18 - 24 - Organic search continues to outperform the average traffic recovery. Sessions here have risen 20 percent in the past week as well. Within this channel, local traffic is recovering more slowly than fly or drive, which we would expect with so much of local activity centering on events. The South is now in positive territory, driven by the success of pages dedicated to delivering coronavirus shutdown updates. All regions are looking better all the time.
May 11 - 17 - Organic search sessions had an excellent week (28 percent increase 3.6 percent per day), although with paid traffic picking back up rapidly, all sessions grew slightly faster. Within this critical channel, fly- and drive-market traffic has been improving much faster than local over the past three weeks, with fly-market sessions falling only 10 percent last year's level on 5/17. If we focus on drive-market sessions, the US west is now breaking even, while the south continues to do very well with all but local users.
May 4 - 10 - Organic search sessions growth flattened last weeks as well, declining 2 percent point to point. Notably, this traffic returned to a Saturday peak for the first time since the shutdown, which was the normal pattern before. Fly-market traffic continues to rise despite stagnation in other segments, and the South, where organic fly-market traffic is now well into YoY growth, leads the way.
April 27 - May 3 - Organic search sessions have increased in recovery speed slightly, rising 22 percent over the past week (2.9 percent per day). While the Fly market has had the best YoY growth so far (or least bad fall), in the past week, drive-market users (between 1 and 4 hours away from the destination) have really begun to pick up. Insofar as driving vacations are most realistic and require less planning, this is an encouraging sign that actual travel may pick up soon.
April 20 - April 26 - Organic search sessions recovered almost exactly as all sessions did last week, 2.2 percent per day and just over 16 percent overall. The South continues to lead the way, but all US regions are improving consistently by this metric, with only Canada lagging among those we track. Fly market visitors lead the way here as well.
April 12 - April 19 - Organic search sessions are the purest simple indicator of leisure travel interest. We’ve seen 32 precent growth in organic search sessions from 4/12 to 4/19, which is a strong indication that people are beginning to think about travel again.
March 21 - April 5 - The YoY decreases in daily organic website traffic appear to be normalizing at a ~64 percent when compared to 2019.
March 11 - 23 - This period saw continued losses with a 59.5 percent decrease in daily organic traffic , most likely due to the media coverage and growing severity of the COVID-19 situation.
February 27 - This was the first day that daily organic traffic fell below 2019 organic traffic with a loss of approximately 3 percent and signaled the first wave of organic traffic decreases.
January 1 - February 25 organic traffic had been up approximately 7 percent YoY.
Paid Website Traffic
2020 traffic first dipped below 2019 levels on March 10 and appear to have stabilized down 64% year over year.
Paid Traffic1 is limited to channels that can be clearly identified as paid sources by Google Analytics. These channels include paid search, display ads and other paid advertising.
August 3 - 10 - In paid traffic, there's good news to report, as a 2 percent rise for the week against weakness in 2019 means that paid search is now doing no worse in YoY performance than other channels for the first time in the crisis. Other than a spike on Monday for fly markets for Southern destinations, the trend of drive markets getting the largest budget shared has continued
July 27 - August 2 - Paid search sessions are for the moment looking as well as they have since the start of the shutdown, down 43 percent from 2019 same-date levels on Sunday. The one segment to grow throughout July (at least in terms of catching up to last year's levels), they fell 10 percent throughout the week but still came in closer to 2019's same-date numbers than they had been. Most of the additional sessions came from fly markets, and most of them came to Southern DMO sites, where some destinations appear to be turning paid budgets back on
July 20 - 26 - Paid search was the one area to feature change, and it's positive, with sessions falling 4 percent from last Sunday but improving from -47 percent YoY last Sunday to -41 percent yesterday due to declining year-ago volume. All visitor segments grew, but drive most of all. The Midwest and south have driven the change, with both regions ramping back up toward normalcy.
July 13 - 19 - Paid search sessions have ticked up, particularly over the weekend, rising 28 percent across the week, almost all of which occurred in the past couple of days. Down 47 percent YoY, paid search remains significantly depressed but stronger than it has been in recent times. While all visitor segments ticked upward, drive-market visitors contributed the most to the overall rise in paid sessions through the weekend. All regions but the West are trending upward in this metric, the South and the Northeast most of all.
July 6 - 12 - Paid search sessions actually grew by a small amount over the course of the week (5 percent). Year over year, they remain significantly down at 58 percent. Drive markets continue to be the focus for those DMOs who are spending on paid search. The Northeast, which had been running at volume parity with 2019, fell back down to the -40 percent YoY range at the end of the week, and Canada also pulled back.
June 30 - July 5 - Paid sessions declined 21 percent across the week and are now back to late April year-over-year performance levels. Drive markets have clearly pulled away from fly markets in annual growth, while locals still lag. All regions except for Alaska and the Northeast pulled back on paid spending over the course of the week, but those two regions are buying search traffic near their levels from a year ago.
June 22 - 29 - Paid sessions are back down to -46 percent YoY, but the story varies significantly by region. The South,for months leading the industry in turning paid budgets back on, has responded to the surge in Coronavirus cases by going back down to -50 percent YoY, while the Northeast and Alaska are now purchasing more sessions than they did a year ago. The other regions, even including Canada, are still far below last year's levels but more closer over the past two weeks than they have been since the start of the lockdown.
June 15 - 21 - Whether due to decreased user search interest or retracted budgets, paid search sessions fell over the course of the week as well (-14 percent Sunday to Sunday). The South, though, was the only region to experience this decline; all others rose, but with the South being the only region with a heavy spend level before, the overall number still went down. The Northeast, and, encouragingly, Canada had the best weeks. Local sessions continue to lag fly and drive sessions in YoY growth.
June 8 - 14 - Paid search traffic followed last week's gains by going almost totally flat between Sundays, and on a YoY basis it lost a little ground. Not much changed from last week by local / drive / fly or regional breakdowns, with the stronger (fly and drive, all US regions but the West) and weaker performers (local, Canada) staying in their lanes.
June 1 - 7 - Paid search traffic posted a huge week, rising 5.4 percent per day and 45 percent overall, led by continued gains everywhere but Canada and the US West. Local traffic lags behind the other segments still, but with more travelers planning on DMO websites, traffic from the paid channel is a good opportunity to reach a relevant and motivated audience.
May 25 - 31 - Paid search traffic fell 10 percent throughout the week, largely due to a pullback on Memorial Day spending in the South. Destinations in the Midwest and Northeast actually increased their spending significantly after Memorial Day, but it wasn't enough to counteract the southern retrenchment.
May 18 - 24 - Paid search traffic rose only 13 percent over the past week, with the gains in the South leveling off. However, more regions, such as the Northeast and Midwest, are showing signs of returning to this channel. The opportunity to jump into the market before competing destinations do remains available.
May 11 - 17 - Paid search traffic is coming on strong, rising 30 percent over the past week and 3.8 percent per day. Now that tourism is becoming a tangible possibility, it makes sense to start spending to capture users again. DMOs are not yet going after local audiences with paid search ads, but other segments are rising, down only -50 percent from last year now. The US south is driving this trend for the industry almost single-handedly.
May 4 - 10 - Paid traffic rose just 0.5 percent between May 3 and May 10, with every geographic region in our study looking flat. DMOs still have not turned traffic back on for local markets, focusing instead on drive and fly markets. Since this traffic is often focused around events and in-market topics, it makes sense to wait for greater easing of social distancing to pursue it.
April 27 - May 3 - Once, again, Paid Search sessions grew faster than other segment last week, as more and more DMOs turn this channel back on. Growth was 29 percent (3.7 percent per day) for this metric, with the American South continuing to lead the charge by an ever-growing margin. The West and Midwest are starting to creep up as well, though.
April 20 - April 26 - Having been reduced to almost zero, paid search sessions have plenty of room to grow and are doing so. Driven largely by a few southern destinations turning their paid campaigns back on, overall paid search sessions grew by 7 percent per day and 58 percent overall over the past week. Intelligently, the DMOs reengaging with paid search are focusing on fly market visitors who might be planning now for post-shutdown travel.
April 12 - April 19 - Paid sessions have fallen farther than other channels as DMOs have reasonably decided to save their budgets for a time when users are able to book travel with confidence. With such a low floor to rise from, paid search traffic has begun to rise a little faster than organic sessions, up 41 percent over the last week. Now may be a good time to prepare paid campaigns to place your destination in front of newly hopeful travelers.
March 11 - March 19 - Paid traffic to DMO websites saw a -76.6 percent decrease as DMOs began turning off or reducing paid media campaigns.
The following charts are updated weekly and use a sample set of more than 230 destinations. Depending on your connection speed, it may take several seconds for the data to load.
After a steep decline that began at the end of February, daily searches bottomed out on April 4, showing an 85% decline in daily searches. Since then, searches have increased and bounced back reaching a 9.8% YOY increase in June, and a 5.9% increase in July. As of early August, the trend is comparable to 2019.
March 20 showed an 81% decrease in daily referrals YOY. Since March 20, referrals have stabilized and have increased by 1,136% through early June. May showed a 1.8% increase in referrals YOY, and June showed a 63% increase in referrals YOY. Currently, July shows a 44% increase in referrals YOY, but overall, referrals increased rapidly in June and have been stabilizing since then through early August.
As searches and referrals have been impacted, so has the booking window. On February 28, visitors were searching 91 days out on average, which quickly declined to 60 days out on March 13, signaling visitors may have been rushing to book something sooner. That changed through April 5, when people started looking at trips 122 days out and searching for trips around early August. Since April 5, the booking window has been shortening. Most travelers in June were looking at trips targeting the end of July, and in July, most travelers looked at trips targeting the second half of August. On the week of August 3, visitors searched 52 days out on average compared to 73 days out in 2019 during the same period.
Length of Stay
The length of stay has also been impacted. March showed an average length of stay of 4.4 days compared to 4.1 days for the previous year - a 7% longer stay. April showed a 17% increase YOY, May showed a 10% increase YOY, June showed a 7.5% increase YOY, and July showed a 7.6% longer stay YOY sustaining the trend. As of August 10, the length of stay gap is shortening showing similar figures for both 2020 and 2019.
Our year-to-date analysis shows three dates as significant inflection points for DMO web traffic:
- February 26
- White House holds first press briefing on the coronavirus outbreak.
- March 11
- WHO declares novel coronavirus outbreak to be a pandemic.
- White House announces restrictions on travel from Europe.
- March 13
- The United States declares a national emergency.
- The United States declares a national emergency.