As the Biden administration ramps up vaccine production and news coverage moves past rising case numbers, Americans are starting to see a light at the end of this very dark pandemic tunnel.
Along with this newfound hope seems to be a slowdown in travel. With vaccine production rising, are Americans hunkering down and staying home for the spring in hopes of a more normal summer?
New research from the U.S. Travel Association and Destinations Analysts shows this could be a possibility.
Only about one in eight Americans (12%) is planning a spring break trip this year, according to polling data by Destination Analysts, and that is down from the previous week, during which 16 percent of Americans were planning to travel. This suggests that travelers wary of traveling during the pandemic may be deferring their plans until more people are vaccinated.
For those working in the travel industry, these numbers are a further blow in the short term to the hard-hit tourism industry, which accounts for 39 percent of the jobs lost in the country. However, it could be good news for a sustained recovery in the long-term.
“Travel is a central pillar of the U.S. economy, so an overall recovery will only be possible if Washington moves quickly to keep the industry on its feet,” said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Roger Dow. “A true travel comeback can also only happen once the pandemic is decisively behind us, and we all have an important part to play: get vaccinated as soon as you can, and don’t become complacent about mask-wearing and other important health practices.”
In a news conference with reporters, Dow discussed the timing and the importance of the recovery in light of Destination Analysts’ recent spring break research.
“It’s unclear when travel is going to fully recover, but it is certainly going to take longer if we don’t have the ability to open up business travel which will basically increase jobs,” he said. “Some say COVID (recovery) could take five years unless we have decisive federal actions to help our industry. It’s important to help our industry recover and to have the right policies in place to stimulate travel because when people travel more people work and more people pay taxes and our economy and jobs take off.”
Dow is encouraged by the proposals that are making their way around Capitol Hill in the form of the new $1.9 trillion stimulus bill that was just passed in the House and the bipartisan Hospitality and Commerce Job Recovery Act.
The U.S. Travel Association is also pushing to extend the March 31 deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program and provide a third draw loan.
For those who are traveling during the spring, the association has updated health and safety guidance in “Travel in the New Normal.” The recommendations include business adaptations to create healthy environments, advocates for touchless transactions, promotes mask-wearing and encourages vaccinations for peak travel safety.
“Now we have a collective understanding of the best practices,” said Dow. “Evidence is very clear, without eliminating this pandemic, travel is going to be very difficult so until we get to the tipping point of herd immunity, masks continue to be very important, washing your hands and social distancing. If you are sick don’t travel, stay home.”
Dow noted that even though it’s been a disastrous 12 months for travel, Americans are moving from not traveling at all to planning travel and looking forward.
“If we do the right thing from a health standpoint,” said Dow, “there will be a light at the end of this yearlong very dark tunnel.”