The US is poised to show strong support for Boston after last year’s bombing by turning out in force for the Boston Marathon, and the 33% expansion in the field size (1) is not enough to explain all the additional interest. Interest in travel to Boston for the Marathon started to increase in December and has been growing steadily (Figure 1). Currently search levels for the event are about 42% higher than last year (looking at searches between Jan 1 - Feb 23 in both years). This increase factors out the national growth in aviation demand. In addition, if we look at last year's data we project that only about a third (33%) of Marathon flight searching has occurred so far and the bulk of it is yet to come! Expect flights to Boston to fill up as the Marathon draws closer. Hotel owners are seeing the increase in interest as well, with rooms already selling out for the dates of the Marathon (3). The data shows an initial spike in flight search during the Marathon’s registration period from September 9th through 30th (2), as qualifying runners were notified, with levels holding steady through late October as the Red Sox made their winning World Series bid (October 23rd to 31st), triggering nationwide support for Boston Strong. After that searches experienced a lull during Thanksgiving, but started to increase again in December and continued growing in January and February.
Figure 1: Searches for travel to Boston for the Boston Marathon in 2013 and 2014
Currently flight prices for trips to Boston for Patriot’s Day weekend (or Marathon weekend) are similar to last year, without the slight dip that prices saw in January 2013. If this trend continues, prices will begin to trend upwards and increase sharply in late March as race day approaches.
Figure 2: Weighted average price from US origins for round-trip travel to Boston for the Boston Marathon in 2013 and 2014
The data presented in this analysis comes from Hopper’s combined feed of Global Distribution Service (GDS) data sources which includes about 10 million queries and 1 billion trips per day. Demand is represented as the number of queries not actual ticket purchases, and is calibrated across all GDS sources for each market. Deal fares are represented by the 10th percentile prices. For example if the 10th percentile price is $800 dollars it means that only 10% of trips are priced at or below this price.
The data presented in this analysis include searches for travel to Boston departing April 17-20, 2014 for the Marathon on the 21st, and departing April 11-14, 2013 for the Marathon on the 15th.
We adopted a more conservative methodology to account for potential changes in our own data feeds as well as any overall market changes.
Rather than simply look at the difference in raw number of searches from US origins to Boston for Marathon dates (as we originally did), we updated our analysis with the following steps:
The second and third assumptions are both conservative, in that BTS is reporting positive year-on-year growth in air traffic, and a real increase in search for Patriot's weekend dates would likely lead to a "halo" effect in other nearby April dates.
On this basis, Boston is 42% up for Patriot's weekend dates. On a similar basis, search from US origins to New York for Patriot's weekend is -4% (JFK -6%, EWR +4%, LGA -7%), and a basket of typical US destinations excluding Boston is down 7%.