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Summer Sparks Early Signs of Travel Recovery and Growing Adoption of Disruptors

Memorial Day weekend historically marks the unofficial start of summer travel. But this year, it also served as a bellwether of whether consumers would be ready to travel again. Our purchase insights show that, in the near term, travel post-COVID may be considerably changed.  

Consumers still want a change of scenery, but they are turning to more regional and local destinations. Airline and cruise spending were still significantly down compared to this time last year— -77.6% and -85.8% respectively, but we’re seeing signs of return in other travel categories. 

CDLX State of Spend Post-Memorial Day Travel

As further evidence of the shift toward local and regional travel, customers are rapidly returning to car rentals. Car rental spend increased +30.8 points to –42.7% after hitting a low of -73.4% year over year in early April. This suggests that customers are once again taking summer road trips to driver-friendly destinations. 

At first glance, hotels & lodging recovered the most by Memorial Day weekend, but within the aggregate figures is an important shift. Spend increased +38.1 pts from a low the week of 4/2 (this category is now pacing at –47.8% from a low of -85.8% YOY). However, most of these gains were driven by alternative lodging and homestay brands – not traditional hotels.  

Alternative lodging leads the path forward

Alternative lodging spend is now showing a positive increase of +16% year-over-year, surpassing even last year’s Memorial Weekend spend. In comparison, traditional hotel brands remained down -61.6% year over year. Because alternative lodging is typically paid for in advance, it can serve as an early indicator of upcoming travel spend. However, the dramatic recovery of this category has significantly outpaced the slower turnaround of other industry spend for many weeks and seems to indicate an accelerated adoption of vacation rental disruptors.

Actionable tip: minimize the impact of disruptors

COVID-19 has changed consumer behavior. Across the board, disruptors are rapidly gaining a foothold over their traditional counterparts. We’ve seen the shift in spend toward e-Commerce retailers, online grocery, third-party restaurant delivery, and now, alternative lodging.  

Prior to COVID-19, hotel spend was growing so quickly that it allowed for the expansive growth of alternative lodging without significantly impacting the growth prospects for the major hotel brands.  But with alternative lodging and homestay brands devouring summer leisure travel demand again while traditional hotel spend remains in steep decline, this represents a more significant threat. Hotels and other impacted categories need to act quickly to bring their customers back before they’re lost for good. 

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Want more actionable insights?

With insight into 50% of US transactions, Cardlytics puts purchase insights into action every day for advertisers in banks’ digital channels. Whether marketers are experiencing ups or downs in consumer spend, we’re here to help our clients navigate the curve and drive measurable sales. Contact us for an analysis and campaign strategy customized for your brand.

These insights were recently featured in our State of Spend report, which follows important shifts in consumer spend and track early signs of recovery. Download our latest State of Spend Report today and be sure to check back for the next issue.


Analysis in this report is based on data derived from the Cardlytics platform between March 5th and June 3rd. While analysis is representative of purchase behavior, it does not include every customer or every financial institution on the Cardlytics platform.

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