Summer Travel on the Rebound
Written by: Stephanie Bariatti, SMB Media Marketing Consultant
Summer travel is back.
With restrictions lifting in many parts of the US, lots of folks are packing their bags for the first time in over a year.
According to Tripadvisor CEO Stephen Kaufer, there has been a return to pre-pandemic demand for travel. And the summer will be a busy season for getting out and away. Kaufer says half of Americans want to travel domestically, and a quarter want to travel internationally. And when they make their great escape, they'll do three things -- go longer, do more and spend more. That’s great news for the travel industry, which suffered great loss since the pandemic started.
As far as lodgings go, a recent report by Airbnb indicates this travel rebound is not just a temporary reaction to these many months of restrictions and isolation. Yes, people are craving a return to the traditional summer vacation. But Brian Chesky, Co-Founder and CEO of Airbnb said, “We believe this will be the biggest travel rebound in a century.” According to Airbnb’s Report on Travel & Living, the lines between traveling, living and working are blurring in three key ways: first, people are more flexible over when they can travel, especially as remote working upends traditional seasonality. Second, they are traveling to much more diverse destinations, including small towns and rural areas. And third, they are staying longer in places, if they can work anywhere. This is all causing a definite shortage in vacation rentals and hotels, so spontaneous last-minute trips may not be an option this summer.
Hotel operators say they too have seen bookings improve. Mike Gathright, a senior vice president at Hilton, said the company's hotels were 93% full over Memorial Day weekend. He said the company is “very optimistic” about leisure travel over the summer and a pickup in business travel this fall. “The vaccine distribution, the relaxed travel restrictions, consumer confidence — all of that is driving occupancy and improvement in our business,” Gathright said.
The story with the airlines is starting to look up, as well (no pun intended). Most of the airlines are still losing money, with international travel and business trips deeply decreased. However, domestic leisure is roughly back to where it was. The airline industry’s recovery from the pandemic passed a milestone as more than 2 million people streamed through U.S. airport security checkpoints earlier in June for the first time since early March 2020.
The 2 million mark represents quite a turnaround for the travel industry. At its lowest point, the screening volume during the pandemic was on April 13, 2020, when just 87,534 individuals were screened at airport security checkpoints. Prior to the pandemic, TSA screened on average 2 million to 2.5 million travelers per day. By the middle of last month, TSA's average daily volume for screenings was approximately 65% of pre-pandemic levels.
Even the fear of large-scale furloughs has lifted. United Airlines, which lost $7 billion and threatened to furlough 13,000 workers last fall, told employees this week that their jobs are secure even when the federal money runs out in October. And many airlines are recalling employees from voluntary leave and planning to hire small numbers of pilots and other workers later this year.
Demand is also high in other sections of the travel and entertainment industries:
- Rental car inventory is extremely low. Due to the pandemic, many rental car companies were forced to sell off large portions of their fleets. Now, with travel on the rise, a rental is hard to come by and will come at an increased cost.
- Long-distance travel on trains is increasing. Perhaps a result of all those fewer cars?
- Theme parks are back in action and could see a return to 2019 levels as early as next year.
- Less popular tourist destinations are benefitting and seeing more activity than usual thanks to travelers seeking smaller crowds. Think ski resorts in the summer.
- City trips are making a comeback. Major cities are re-opening in big ways due to low infection rates. Last summer, people fled the cities and felt beaches and other outdoor spaces were safer bets. Now, they are ready for the big city experience.
Bottom line: summer travel is back in a way that that should make everyone feel hopeful about our post-Covid recovery. It’s about time to have a little fun and relaxation! However, you must remember to be flexible. Things might still be a bit limited and different from what you’ve experienced in the past. And book all elements of your trip ASAP. Things are booking up fast!
Stephanie Bariatti works as a Consultant and Project Manager for SMB Media Consulting. She has had extensive experience with many facets of advertising and media, having worked for and with creative agencies, production companies and research departments. She lives in New York with her wonderful husband, three lovable little boys and a snuggly Golden Retriever.
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