Oct 20, 2020

With Covid-19 on the rise across the country, this year’s holiday season is shaping up to be one of the least festive on record, according to research from What If Media Group, a performance-marketing company.

The recent survey finds that fully 76% of respondents are not planning on hosting any sort of holiday party this year—even though 40% of those not planning on hosting have done so in recent years.

With just 19.4% of respondents intending to host some sort of holiday event this year, either at home or another venue, it seems that the season will not provide the kind of relief that many in the event and catering industry will have been hoping for after a year marked by shutdowns and reduced capacity due to social distancing requirements. Elsewhere, retailers will likely feel the effects of lower spending on gifts, decorations, and clothing for parties.

Travel Impact

Those associated with the travel industry are also unlikely to be feeling the festive spirit this year: just 10.9% of survey respondents noted that they are planning holiday-related travel this year. That compares especially poorly with 2019, which saw a record-high 55 million Americans—more than 16% of the population—traveling just for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to data from AAA.

While many Americans seem to be taking a wait-and-see approach—18% are considering traveling but have not yet made firm plans—some 39.7% of survey respondents noted that the impact of Covid-19 means they will not be traveling at all for the holidays this year.

COVID Impact Travel

Interestingly, among those who are choosing to travel, the pandemic does not seem to be having a major effect on the preferred mode of transit. While 61.7% of respondents indicated that they will be driving, just 17.3% of travelers indicated that they will be doing so instead of flying this year—a proportion that is almost offset by the 13.9% of travelers who typically drive for the holidays but have elected to fly to their destinations this year.

Sadly, one famous holiday flyer looks set to be making fewer holiday trips this year due to Covid—11.6% of respondents noted that they will be telling their kids that Santa can’t come, with a further 14.3% still figuring out whether a visit is possible.


The What If Media Group survey was conducted online within the United States from October 14 to October 19, 2020, among 22,915 adults. Respondents were randomly selected and the findings are at a 99% confidence level with a margin of error +/- 2.5%. What If Media Group’s proprietary ad-serving technology includes a real-time survey module that was used to facilitate the data collection for this study. The data was weighted to the 2010 US Census.

About What If Media Group

Founded in 2012, What If Media Group is an award-winning performance marketing company that enables the world’s leading brands to acquire valuable new customers at scale. By leveraging data-driven engagement and re-engagement strategies across multiple proprietary marketing channels and sophisticated targeting technology, and utilizing insights based on millions of consumer ad interactions each day, What If Media Group delivers the most cost-effective and highest performing marketing campaigns for its clients. Headquartered in Fort Lee, New Jersey, What If Media Group is a recipient of Crain’s 2019 Fast 50 and is a member of the Inc. 5000 list of the fastest-growing private companies in America.

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