‘We will literally go anywhere’
When President Joe Biden said in a national speech earlier this month that barbecues and face-to-face meetings may be possible for the July 4 holiday, many Americans are hoping they could regain another summer tradition: the holiday.
Even before the president’s cautiously optimistic speech, the internet search and booking activity for summer travel broke a record. At Hopper, a travel booking app, there has been a nearly 75% increase in flight searches in late summer since late February, when the third vaccine was approved for the United States. Search website traffic KAYAK is also seeing a steady increase in summer travel interest, with search traffic on its site increasing by up to 27% each week.
In terms of bookings, Hopper reports that domestic bookings have increased by up to 58% this month compared to March 2019. It seems that more Americans are planning sunshine vacations, meetings with grandchildren or just getting away.
“We’re going to literally everywhere, we’re so desperate to travel,” said Minda Alena, a New Jersey-based interior designer and creative director who plans four trips this summer and fall. “We just want to get on a plane and feel like we’ve been out of our lives for a week.”
Her vacation will start with a trip in August to Turks & Caicos, a destination that has been on Alena’s bucket list for years. This will be followed by a visit to Jamaica with her husband, followed by a girls getaway in Palm Beach, Florida, for her 50th birthday and a family trip with her three children to Greece before the end of the year.
Alena and her husband were recently vaccinated They have lost friends in the pandemic, but she said she feels lucky that no one in her family got sick. The last year, however, has changed the way her family views their finances: They tend more, she said, to take some of the money they have spent years saving and invest in experiences.
“My husband and I are both,” What are we waiting for? “Life is very short,” he said.
Shifting attitudes between consumers
The pandemic normalized the travel industry last year: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) forecasts a global tourism economy shrinking of up to 80% following all 2020 data. – at least in domestic travel – seems imminent.
A poll conducted by Amazing America, a website dedicated to American road travel, found that more than 75% of respondents believe it will be safe to travel this summer. (More than 68% said the pandemic prompted them to opt for domestic travel from international.
Prior to the pandemic, the average booking window for domestic travel in the United States was between 45 and 60 days before departure. In 2020, however, this window was reduced to just six or seven days, according to Priceline. Hesitation about quarantine rules, illness concerns and financial uncertainty were all factors for those few who took vacations.
Halee Whiting, owner of hotel sales consultant Hospitality With a Flair, creates pricing strategies and custom hotel brand packages. Nearly 70% of online traffic for its customers, she said, is now for travel between July and mid-September.
“People are itching to go out, but they are still hesitant,” he said. “As the vaccine becomes more widespread and states begin to relax their guidelines, this summer will be when they are ready to roll over.”
For hotels and rental homes, “demand is real”
Indeed, many travel agencies and accommodation operators are already seeing numbers surpassing 2019, which was a signaling year for the travel industry.
Vacasa, a home rental site, reports that its bookings on large family properties have increased by more than 300% compared to last year. The self-contained holiday homes were a big draw for holidaymakers in 2020 – thanks to their promise of privacy – and this summer travelers are doing it again.
Take a look at one of Vacasa’s accommodations, Whispering Pines Lodge on the Eagle River, Wisconsin. Reservations in the 11-bedroom house are 97.5% higher than they were at this point two years ago, with occupancy for the summer already at almost 100%.
Hotels, which still experience an annual occupancy reduction of more than 20%, also welcome the summer rush.
“August is usually full late, but we already have almost 50% fullness for August,” said Phil Baxter, owner of Sesuit Harbor House, a 21-room inn in East Dennis on Cape Cod. “There is a human need to come together, and sharing joy and sorrow is something you do with people, not yourself.”
Hotels that opened in the middle of the pandemic are also seeing the necessary boost. The Mission San Juan Capistrano Inn, which opened Sept. 1 next to the ruins of historic Mission San Juan Capistrano in Southern California, has seen new weekly bookings doubled over the past four months.
Roxbury in Stratton Falls, a whimsical resort in the Catskills with sophisticated themed cottages, came very close to closing for good after the summer of 2020 opened with a cancellation riot.
“We’re facing the opposite problem this year,” said Greg Henderson, co-owner. “Demand is so high that there will be no weekend availability until mid-April until October.”
“The demand is real,” said Betsy O’Rourke, head of marketing at Xanterra Travel Collection, which manages shelters and restaurants in national parks such as Grand Canyon National Park and Mount Rushmore National Monument. “We are sold out for most dates throughout the summer and fall.”
A hospitable industry
Many travelers book trips in order to finally make the holidays that were completely absorbed or canceled in 2020, and hotels and travel agents rejoice in the trend. Langham New York will fill a hotel room with balloons and champagne for travelers looking to celebrate – or do something more – birthday or anniversary. a nearby hotel, Baccarat New York, offers a similar package that includes a personalized gift to celebrate the lost landmark of 2020.
No travel industry has been hit hardest by the pandemic of cruises, and most major cruises do not even consider resuming US flights by the fall.
However, customers book later in the year, especially on smaller ships. Uniworld, a boutique river cruise company, runs a European Christmas-themed Danube cruise every winter. This year, two special Christmas cruises start in July for travelers who felt that their Christmas 2020 was a wash.
John Capps, a 65-year-old clinical psychologist living in North Virginia, booked a cruise in July with his wife and another couple. Capps and his wife are both long-distance COVID-19 missions still battling the remaining symptoms in December. their Christmas was dark and silent.
“There were no parties, no rallies,” he said. “We are very lucky – we are not 100% back, but we are fully operational and have not lost an income stream to the pandemic. But we are very excited to have this summer trip that Christmas will give us.”
Even cheaper prices and flexible bookings are available
For those who want to travel this summer but are unsure when to pull the trigger, travel advisors say the longer you wait, the more you will spend.
“Prices are starting to go up, but there are still a lot of deals to be found,” said Brett Keller, Priceline CEO. “Hotel prices, for example, continue to fall by almost 20% compared to recent years, with the biggest discounts still being available on higher quality 3 and 4 star hotels.”
And Adit Damodaran, an economist at Hopper, predicts airfare prices will start to rise in April before ending in early summer. “We usually see a gradual increase from mid-April to July, where flights are consistently more expensive as summer approaches. This year looks like a rolling wave,” he said.
Another reason to book now? Most of the flexible booking policies introduced at the beginning of the pandemic remain in place, allowing travelers to change or cancel hotel and airline ticket bookings without incurring huge fees.
“If our customers have the option to cancel and pay only a small penalty, they make a reservation,” said Sudeep Shah, CEO of Travel King International, a travel agency in Dallas. “There are a lot of people who make up for what they lost.”
“A kind of euphoria”
Henderson, of The Roxbury in Stratton Falls, admits that it is difficult to trust the optimistic signs of his business after such a difficult year. While fighting for his business in New York, his brother in Oklahoma almost died of COVID.
“We all have some form of PTSD,” he said.
But he and his wife also managed to get their first COVID-19 vaccine this month after expanding to New York for hoteliers. Two weeks after receiving his second shot, he said, he was planning a trip to Oklahoma to see his brother.
“I’m not saying I’m buying it yet, but I’m looking for it,” he said. “There is a kind of euphoria. And if I feel that way, I know a lot of other people have to feel the same way.”