As vaccination rollouts continue around the world, countries are starting to open up for travel this summer which means more people clamoring for that first taste of freedom. Pre-pandemic, getting through an airport and hopping on a flight could be quite a hassle and a recent survey found that Americans were the most stressed travelers in the world.

Those findings come from a report by Collinson, a global leader in services related to the travel experience including airport lounge access, medical, and security assistance. The research report, titled The Return Journey, examined travelers’ attitudes toward the airport experience both before and during the pandemic, particularly from the mental health perspective.

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on mental health in the United States with “4 in 10 adults in the US reporting symptoms of anxiety or depressive disorder in January 2021.” This is a notable increase from 1 in 10 reporting similar symptoms in 2019.

Among the many concerns of Americans, and other travelers worldwide, is the impact travel would have on their physical wellbeing. Eighty-one percent admitted that the pandemic had heightened these worries. Seventy percent of Americans participating in the survey anticipated that travel would be even more stressful than prior to the pandemic. The number one reason for the hesitation was concern over having to enter quarantine either on arrival at their destination, or on their return trip.

But as travel picks up again, participants in the survey would like to see clear signs of health and safety measures including enforcement of mask-wearing (66%) and adequate hand sanitizer stations throughout the airport (63%). Not all the trepidation is pandemic-related. Before the pandemic hit, almost half of the participants admitted to feeling stressed at some point while traveling and shared that they were likely to call in sick the day after a trip.

Despite the stressors, more Americans have already started traveling following guidelines from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and with the availability of more vaccinations. In early April, American Airlines stated that their bookings were up 90 percent of what they were before the pandemic.

Travel Noire spoke with Sheryl Pflaum, President Americas at Collinson for further insight into the findings.

Travel Noire: Were there any notable findings outside of America the team found particularly interesting?

Sheryl Plaum: While most countries responded along the same lines, in terms of stand-outs, India specifically had the highest percentage of impact on business travel (90%). In addition, Brazil’s responses were very high at 90% (globally 73%) for prioritizing mental wellbeing more now than before COVID-19.

TN: Did the respondents mention specific actions that they want taken to alleviate their mental health concerns? 

SP: When we asked what providers could do, passengers told us how much they value propositions that show there’s consideration for their mental health during their journeys (42%). And, even before the pandemic, travelers were craving comfort so much they would pay for upgrade options such as airport lounge access (32%), and extra legroom on the plane (31%). The importance of creating seamless, end-to-end contactless experiences has never been so apparent. We found that travelers were starting to expect quick and contactless airport experiences – such as contactless food ordering or duty-free shopping – before the pandemic, but now it’s an even more pressing requirement. A quarter said they wanted contactless experiences pre-COVID-19, and that number has now increased to 42%.

TN: What advice would you give to those looking to travel in the near future for business and/or leisure?

SP: COVID-19 has impacted travel enormously, but we are committed to getting the world traveling safely again. It is now more important than ever to focus on how to make travel enjoyable again— whether it’s a business trip, a holiday, or seeing family and friends. We at Collinson have adopted a keen focus on wellness and mental health, so travelers can feel confident about traveling again and embracing the ‘new normal.’  Opting for a COVID-19 test during travel, leveraging contactless lounges, and embracing technology to check in via apps, mobile food orders, and digital boarding passes all greatly contribute to a traveler’s peace of mind.