To spring break or not to spring break? That is the question for brands navigating the pandemic


Ten years in Chicago has taught me that, even though the temperature reads 60 degrees outside, there’s likely one more cold spell we have to endure before we finally get to spring.

Fake spring and second winters aside though, it’s safe to say we’re all eager to get out of our homes and celebrate outside after a year spent in lockdown. Brands are equally looking forward to real spring. The National Retail Federation forecasts the highest growth in retail spending in 17 years in the coming months as more people are vaccinated and the economy reopens.

Naturally, with spring comes spring break but with only 9.9% of the entire U.S. population fully vaccinated, the idea of a COVID-19 spring break has plenty of people worried. People are sharing their concerns about spring break turning into a superspreader event and some universities are going so far as to pay students to stay put during the break.

For many brands, spring break 2021 is a good first look at what they can expect and how they should balance public safety against consumer expectations as the world attempts to return to pre-COVID times. We used Sprout Social’s Advanced Listening to analyze over 205,000 messages across Twitter from February 10 to March 16 to highlight what brands need to know before going back to business as usual.

The light at the end of the tunnel

Thanks in part to the vaccine rollout and warmer weather, states known as college spring break travel destinations are rapidly welcoming tourists with open arms.

Texas and Florida, two states with lax COVID protocols, were the two most mentioned states in the conversation about spring break, with 3,559 and 4,596 mentions respectively. Bars are operating at about half capacity in parts of Florida and Disney World’s four theme parks are fully booked for spring break.

Conversations about spring break also sharply increased in message volume on March 2, when Texas’ governor announced they’d be reopening the state and lifting the mask mandate.

These reopening announcements, coupled with one survey revealing 34% of Americans are planning to travel out of town this spring, are music to the travel and hospitality industry’s ears. Anticipating an increase in travel, booking service Hotels.com debuted their “revenge travel” commercials ahead of the start of spring break while airline JetBlue launched its own spring-themed sales campaign.

Not so fast, spring breakers

Of course, not everyone shares the same level of optimism at the thought of spring break travel. With much of the U.S. still trying to get the pandemic under control, plenty of people are concerned the rush to return to pre-COVID times will undo much of the progress we’ve already made. This is especially true in states like Maryland where governors have lifted their COVID restrictions ahead of the spring break travel surge.

Others pointed out how COVID-19 variants, such as strains from the U.K., are continuing to spread and the increase in partying might lead to another spike in contracted cases.

While it’s understandable that people and businesses want to forget the past year, public safety needs to remain a priority. Conversations around mask wearing, for example, spiked the day Governor Abbott announced his decision to revoke the mask mandate in Texas. Unsurprisingly, these messages were largely negative (45% negative, 24% positive, 31% neutral), with some businesses explaining why this decision ahead of spring break travel is more harmful than helpful.

Better safe than sorry

Look: it’s hard not to feel like the country is finally turning the corner on this pandemic. But just because the end is in sight doesn’t mean we’ve crossed the finish line, and brands should proceed with caution until we’re in the clear. People are already worried about how businesses will treat the holidays that follow spring break, with St. Patrick’s Day, Easter and Passover on the horizon.

To alleviate these fears, businesses are taking simple actions like enforcing mask-wearing wherever possible and reducing the number of visitors allowed at a given time. Going one step further, some businesses are continuing to only offer virtual visits and concerts until further notice.

Reading the room and taking customer feedback into consideration can help businesses determine the best course of action as society goes back to normal. People are genuinely worried about the long-lasting effects of spring break travel and parties. Instead of ignoring these concerns, consider how you might address them directly and identify the steps your business can take to ensure everyone’s safety.

Proceed with cautious optimism

After a year filled with canceled plans and disrupted travel, it’s only natural that people and businesses are eager to get back to pre-pandemic times. But just because we’re starting to turn the corner on this virus doesn’t mean we can jump right back into business as usual.

Businesses should continue to keep a pulse on how their customers and local communities feel about the spring break festivities that are underway. Listen to their concerns and evaluate how safe people feel as travel increases and states continue to reopen. How businesses handle spring break 2021 will give consumers a preview of what’s to come as the weather warms and they start planning their summer vacations.

Having a reopening social strategy is paramount for any business as we slowly begin the transition out of quarantine life. To learn more about what you need for a post-COVID world, check out this article on how tools like social listening can inform your business’ reopening strategy.

This post To spring break or not to spring break? That is the question for brands navigating the pandemic originally appeared on Sprout Social.