Travelers are looking for 'safe, outdoor, open spaces' when planning their next vacation: SimilarWeb's Alisha Kapur

Alisha Kapur, SimilarWeb's lead travel industry consultant, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss the latest travel industry trends.

Video Transcript

ADAM SHAPIRO: Alisha Kapur, she is SimilarWeb's lead travel industry consultant. We appreciate your joining us. Because you crunched the numbers on where people are searching online to go to get out. And I'm going to share some of it here. In January, or at least at the end of February, the top search destination-- this blew me away-- Yellowstone, the national park, followed by Disney World, Disneyland, and then Universal Studios. I get Disney and Universal. What do you think drove people for Yellowstone? It was number one.

ALISHA KAPUR: Yeah, that's a great question, Adam. So we've been seeing a ton of traction for Yellowstone, not just over the past 28 days, but really over the past year. Yellowstone has exploded in a way that it really hadn't before. And you can kind of see that in the top trending destinations. Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho, all had growth year over year. And that's where Yellowstone is, is in those three states.

So the reason for that is that-- or our hypothesis is that people really are looking for safe, outdoor, open spaces. And Yellowstone and other national parks offer that. So you can see from consumer research trends that national parks are kind of top of mind for most consumers, especially as they look for safe, comfortable, remote ways to get around.

SEANA SMITH: Alisha, we had Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky on the program last week. He was talking about how people still prefer Airbnbs to hotels because they simply feel safer during the pandemic. Is that what you're seeing as well? And I guess, what kind of trends do you expect then to see moving forward?

ALISHA KAPUR: Yeah, it's a great question, Seana. So we have definitely seen that the pick-up for alternative accommodations, especially with regards for to Airbnb and VRBO, has been really, really strong. So you can see that Airbnb.com and vrbo.com are the top US websites, top US travel websites right now, ahead of booking.com, marriott.com, and hotels.com. So Hilton is actually not on this list, but it is next in the line.

And from my perspective, I do believe that alternative accommodations will kind of maintain that strong pick-up that they've had over the next few months. But suppliers are doing a lot to regain consumers' trust. They are offering a lot of deals. They are really, really kind of trying to put out calls to action to their loyal consumer bases. So I think suppliers will come back more quickly than maybe is to be expected, especially as we start to see vaccinations spread across more age groups.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Now some of us, to get anywhere if you don't have a car, because you live in New York City, you got to fly. And in January, we were booking vacations. I learned a new term, as did the rest of the country. VFR, Visiting Friends and Relatives, that's big with the airlines. And look at this. Southwest was your number one search in January. That's a big part of their business, VFR, followed by American and Delta. What do you think hurt United? Was it a lack of international destinations?

ALISHA KAPUR: Yeah, I think that United, and American and Delta to a certain extent, are all just-- they have higher international exposure than a domestic airline like Southwest. So Southwest has really been able to maintain relatively strong demand compared to more international airlines over the past year, just given the locations of kind of their inventory and where their routes are. So I know they're focusing pretty heavily on domestic. And I think that that's going to be the case for a while longer until we start seeing international borders open up.

SEANA SMITH: Alisha, you mentioned Delta there being hurt a little bit by their international exposure. But I think one thing that separates Delta from some of the other airlines out there have been how they approach to safety during this pandemic. They're still leaving the middle seat open.

When I talked to people that have flown Delta, they have felt very safe on their flights over the last several months. How much of that do you think is going to help the airline then moving forward, once we get to the other side of this pandemic, just in terms of maybe being able to draw in customers that previously wouldn't have flown Delta?

ALISHA KAPUR: I think that it is going to be-- I think it's a great move on Delta's part. I think that throughout this pandemic, as you said, Seana, we've seen that Delta has been extremely proactive about really taking consumers' safety and putting it first above all else.

And the fact that they maintain their middle seat open and a lot of other, just, messaging on their site has really been focused on consumer safety, I think it's really going to help them as we come out of this pandemic because they've not only been able to maintain the same loyal consumers that they have, but consumers that are starting to travel again and may be a little bit trepid, whether they're vaccinated or not, I think will go to Delta as the go-to provider, just because they have emphasized safety so much more above everything else and so much more than any other airline.

ADAM SHAPIRO: So SimilarWeb, we know, provides this kind of detailed data and deeper dives for clients who are going to make investment decisions. I want to ask you about the cruises. Because I went on a cruise a billion years ago. It was easy to be good looking and young because of the cruise line I chose. I took my dad, just want to make that clear. But here's the deal. Carnival, four million searches, and this was in January, the time when you really still couldn't go on a cruise. What is that telling you?

ALISHA KAPUR: So I think that we're starting to see a small pickup in demand for cruises. However, in Carnival's case and with a lot of other cruise lines, we are still seeing continued traffic to information pages, cancellation pages, and really, pages where consumers are not necessarily booking on site, but may actually just be trying to figure out their plans a little bit more, especially with the ever changing landscape.

So Carnival actually recently announced that they will be kind of halting service until June, I believe. So I think that we're going to still see continued volatility in the cruise sector just for the next few months, but hopefully a pickup by summer.

ADAM SHAPIRO: All right, we're heading to spring break, so we're going to get you back after spring break as we're heading into the earnings reports for the travel industry. Alisha Kapur is SimilarWeb's lead travel industry consultant. Thank you for joining us. We'll be right back.