Travel is back: Get insights you need to understand what that means for you

With vaccination rates rising, Americans are once again on the move. According to a report from American Express, 76% of people are actively making trip wish lists. And when people travel, they also go out to restaurants—a lot. OpenTable’s recent diner survey reveals that 72% of people choose to dine out for every meal while on the road. The fact is restaurants provide a lot of the novelty, adventure, and memories that make travel one of life’s most treasured experiences. Restaurants can lead people to discover new cities. 

With the vacation season in high gear, OpenTable analyzed the data to reveal who is traveling, what they expect, and how to engage and attract them during their adventures. While people are eager to be out and traveling again, we recommend that you continue to follow regulations and guidelines from your local city and state health officials on COVID-19. If there is anything we’ve learned over the last year, it’s how to quickly adapt based on changes in the number of COVID cases.

Weekend road trippers

Even those who aren’t quite ready to jump on a plane are looking to get away. OpenTable surveyed more than 17,000 diners across the U.S. and Canada and learned that 54% of diners want to take driving-distance weekend trips. Pay close attention to your monthly cover summary report to track those first-time diners, who are likely to be visitors to your area. Seeing a lot of first-timers may mean you’re already drawing this important demographic into your restaurant. 

Bring even more of them through your doors with a targeted boost campaign that specifically reaches out-of-towners. You might even consider creating an experience to offer and advertise. A special event at a restaurant can provide all the inspiration a traveler needs to book a weekend stay in your town. 

Families on vacation

Family travel is on the rise in 2021. That means more hungry moms, dads, grandparents, and kids looking for places to eat. This uptick in family travel can be a boon for family-friendly restaurants. Lean into those qualities, and consider advertising your crowd-pleasing family style meals, a cool kids menu, any discounts for children, as well as any upcoming activity you’ve got planned that’s fun for all ages.

Frequent flyers 

For over a year, people haven’t been racking up their usual number of airline miles. Thankfully, that is changing now. According to OpenTable data, almost half of diners (49%) are ready to fly again. KAYAK data shows that Punta Cana, Saint Thomas Island, Knoxville, and Key West are some of the top travel destinations that are seeing a marked increase in tourism. Even compared to pre-pandemic searches, flights to Punta Cana are up 115% compared to 2019, while searches for flights to Saint Thomas Island are up 38%. 

If you’re in one of those areas or another region that’s popular with tourists, you’ll want to get the most out of the surge by improving your visibility on OpenTable. Some easy, low-cost ways to achieve this are with strategic boost campaigns and Bonus Points.

Other ways to draw in tourists include using social media and hashtags that help people find you when they’re planning their trips. You could also consider offering events specifically to appeal to tourists. For example, if your area has a great theater scene, a pre-show prix fixe may draw diners to your door. Huddle with your kitchen braintrust, and create a themed dinner to match a museum exhibit or event. 

Food tourists

Many people travel specifically for food and restaurants. According to a 2017 AAA survey, 75% of Americans believe dining is an important part of travel. And 80% have participated in a culinary activity on vacation. If we look at millennials, that number rises to 88%. You can capitalize on this growing trend by connecting with local food tour companies and using carefully crafted experiences to create the kind of memorable dining experience people want to travel for.

Wellness vacationers

There’s no question that it’s been a very stressful time for everyone. At the moment, people want and need serious rest and relaxation to be part of any vacation. According to the aforementioned American Express report, 78% of people want to travel to counter all the stress of the pandemic. After months of heavy pandemic drinking, sober vacations are on the rise

Though restaurants are not always immediately associated with health, they certainly can be part of a wellness getaway. Highlight this in whatever way works for you, whether it’s incorporating plant-based dishes or zero-proof drinks on your menu or partnering with a local yoga or fitness studio for a fun wellness-focused happy hour. Letting the world know what you have to offer in the wellness space can bring those health-minded travelers in the door.


After more than a year at home, most people are itching to get away somewhere. But not everyone. OpenTable data shows that 17% of people in the U.S. still want to stick close to home. Undoubtedly, even this crowd wants to have a good time in their own area this summer. While they might be staying home, 72% say they’ll have resumed their dining behavior from pre-COVID by summer. For many people, hometown fun naturally includes exploring the restaurant scene where they live. You can offer relaxing, enjoyable experiences, like happy hours, to draw new diners to your restaurant. OpenTable marketing tools can help these diners discover you.

Travel and restaurants are intimately linked and most people wouldn’t want it any other way. Start thinking about all the possible ways you can help people make memories when traveling while continuing to bring new local diners in.