The travel and hospitality industry was among the hardest hit when the COVID-19 pandemic brought life to an abrupt stop in the United States and abroad. Travel in many cities was restricted to just essential travel during the darkest parts of the pandemic, grounding two-thirds of passenger jets, emptying hotels and resorts and halting all U.S. cruise line operations.

Now, roughly 15 months later, the industry is witnessing another tectonic shift, as millions of Americans venture out from their living rooms and onto planes, into hotel rooms and, for some, aboard cruises.

“Trust” now means something different for many travelers, especially business travelers, who are also starting to return quickly. Along with reliability and outstanding safety records, safeguarding your customers’ health and ensuring a clean experience are key to earning trust in the travel and hospitality industry, a likely long-term impact from the pandemic.

To explore consumers’ relationship with trust and travel, Morning Consult asked U.S. consumers how much they trust the industry overall, as well as some of its subindustries, why they trust them and what could potentially break that trust.

Morning Consult asked 4,400 U.S. adults, including nearly 1,000 business travelers, about how much they trust airlines, hotels and resorts, and cruise lines, and what is important in their decision to trust or purchase from one company over another.


Hotels dominate Morning Consult’s “Most Trusted Brands: Travel and Hospitality” list for 2021 — drawn from Morning Consult Brand Intelligence — especially midrange hotels such as Holiday Inn and Best Western.

Eight of the top 10 most trusted travel and hospitality brands are hotels or resorts, with only one airline on the list: the budget carrier Southwest Airlines. Expanding the list to 20 brands simply adds more hotels: 13 of the 20 top most travel and hospitality brands are hotels. Hilton Worldwide Holdings Inc. owns two of the brands on the list (Hilton and Embassy Suites), while Marriott International has two under their umbrella (Marriott and Sheraton).

Online travel companies Expedia and Tripadvisor made the expanded list, along with three other airlines: Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines.

Brands are scored by looking at the share of U.S. adults who trust each brand minus the share who do not trust that brand.

Average net trust by industry

Notably, the coronavirus pandemic was a net positive for the travel industry when it comes to consumer trust: The airline and hotel subindustries are exiting the pandemic with higher net trust than when they entered it.

Consumer net trust dropped in March 2020, as the novel coronavirus came stateside, before rising in summer 2020.


We’re still in a relatively unsteady moment for the travel and hospitality industry, with consumer anxieties high and greater attention on the steps that brands are taking help us return to normal. One small customer service misstep by a brand could go viral.


Morning Consult predicted in March 2021 a travel boom and produced in May an in-depth series on where and how consumers are traveling this year.

Up Next: The Current State of Consumer Trust

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