EXCLUSIVE: New data suggests a widening red state/blue state travel divide

America doesn’t just vote along party lines. It travels on them, too.

That’s the conclusion of a controversial new study by RateGain, a software company that specializes in travel. It crunched hotel reservation data for Thanksgiving week and compared it to the same period a year ago.

And what it found was surprising. The red state/blue state divide extends to travel — and it might do more than change your next trip. It could also affect you if you’re locked down in your own home, trying to stay healthy.

Why this matters

I think RateGain sent me this information as a dare. Why? Because no one in their right mind would wade into this controversy, especially when nearly half the country thinks the last presidential election was rigged.

But this booking analysis may be useful. And besides, I’m not afraid of a little controversy.

Let’s take a look at the electoral map as of this morning:

This is not an endorsement. I’m only showing you this so you can see the red and blue states. More on my politics in a moment.

Here’s the RateGain map, along with their decrease by state. The red states are down, but not by that much. The blue states show a more significant decline in bookings. The only exception is Georgia.

The maps are very similar, aren’t they? Blue states and cities recorded an 82 percent drop in hotel bookings for Thanksgiving 2020 compared to the previous year. Red states are not seeing as much of a decline, with 2020 levels at just 40 percent of what they were in 2019.

Check out the cities

But the pattern doesn’t become clear until you drill down to the cities.

Traditionally blue metropolitan areas like New York, Chicago and San Francisco are way down from last year. The cities aren’t all solidly Democrat, but close enough.

And here are the cities with the lowest declines:

Again, there are a few blue cities in the mix. But there’s definitely a trend.

I asked RateGain what it made of the disparity.

Chinmai Sharma, president of RateGain, says just as the country has different views on politics, it also has different views on travel and travel safety:

We are witnessing that blue states or cities, which are largely dominated by Democrats, have seen a big drop in bookings this week.

Some major cities recorded up to 82 percent drop in bookings, showing solidarity and support with the government’s position of limited travel and maintaining social distancing protocol.

Red/Republican states are not seeing a massive dip when compared to 2019 levels averaging only around 40 to 45 percent drop.

What this means for you

If RateGain’s trends continue, it could affect your next trip. I might have second thoughts about visiting Jacksonville, Fla., in the coming months — although, to be honest, Jacksonville sounds nice right about now. Today’s high temperature is a balmy 79 degrees.

Politics affects the way we travel, of course. I covered this topic four years ago in my USA Today column, and some readers hated it. (Don’t believe me? Just read the Facebook comments.)

But other people’s politics may affect you even more. I cover dangerous destinations regularly. An unstable political situation can make a place hazardous to your health even when there’s no pandemic.

My advice is still the same: Follow the Centers for Disease Control guidelines and avoid travel if possible. If you live in a red state, please bear in mind that your neighbors may not be heeding the guidelines (and vice versa, if you’re in a blue state, they may be). No guarantees, of course.

Plan your activities accordingly. And please stay safe out there.

Do you think there’s a red state/blue state divide in travel? I’m opening the comments on this post, but please be kind. (In the interests of full transparency, I openly disclose my politics on my site.)

About the Author

Christopher Elliott
Author, Journalist and Consumer Advocate & Founder of Elliott