Travel bookings are increasing as more people become fully vaccinated and hope to travel for the first time since the pandemic began. Here are several indicators confirming that travel is increasing and what we might look forward to in the coming months.
People Are Looking For Flights
People can easily see what the most popular Google searches are at Google Trends. For the week of April 4 to 10, 2021, the search keyword “Google Flights” has a popularity score of 100 out of 100. As recently as late January 2021, the same term scored 56 and has been steadily increasing since then.
This is one of the most popular search terms signaling people are receptive to flying for leisure travel. One of the last times people were looking in earnest for “Google Flights” was June 7-13, 2020, with a peak score of 80. People might be more willing to fly this summer than last summer.
Daily TSA Security Checkpoints Above 1 Million
In addition to more people looking for flights, more people are flying than they were in 2020. The daily TSA checkpoint travel numbers are above 1 million daily screenings on most travel days since February 11, 2021. From late March to early April, the daily throughputs are between 1.1 million and 1.5 million each day.
For perspective, approximately 2.0 million to 2.5 million people passed through TSA checkpoints for the same days in 2019. Current screenings are roughly half of the pre-pandemic levels. March 2020 and April 2020 were the peak shutdown period of the pandemic in 2020. The daily screenings were as low as 97,130 on April 6, 2020.
More International Travel Destinations Open
The list of international destinations where Americans can fly is slowly increasing. Mexico, several Caribbean islands and the Maldives have been open to American travelers since the summer of 2020.
Other places have reopened more recently to travelers:
The entry requirements vary by country. Iceland only allows fully vaccinated travelers, for instance. All returning Americans must have a negative re-entry test to return to the United States and avoid a mandatory quarantine.
The Schengen Europe zone, Canada and most of Asia and Oceania remains off limits to leisure travel.
Australia and New Zealand recently announced a travel bubble between both nations. Oceania has been difficult to fly to since the pandemic began. This step can be a sign of hope for leisure travel to resume in this region sooner instead of later.
Rental Car Shortage
There is also a rental car shortage that makes it difficult for flyers to find rental cars at their vacation destination. Rental prices at popular destinations like Florida and Hawaii are above-average as a result.
Several factors are contributing to the nationwide inventory crunch:
- A rapid increase in leisure travel volume
- Reduced rental company fleet sizes
- Idle vehicle assembly lines due to a semiconductor shortage
A year ago, very few people were willing to rent or needed to rent a vehicle. People stopped traveling and began telecommuting overnight. As a result, rental car agencies sold more cars than usual to pay operating expenses and remain in business. Additionally, some companies like Hertz can still be rented from, even though the company filed for bankruptcy in May 2020 because of the unexpected travel slowdown.
Rental agencies are scrambling to expand their fleet size, but vehicle manufacturers are idling production because of a semiconductor shortage.
Temporary factory closures due to the pandemic are also affecting many industries that are trying to return to “business as usual” while keeping the safety protocols necessary to stave off a resurgence in worker infection rates.
Vacation Rentals And Hotel Bookings Increase
Reports indicate that short-term vacation rental sites like Airbnb and VRBO are seeing people booking their summer lodging sooner than usual. Spring break bookings have also been healthy.
It remains to be seen if summer getaways will have the same crowd sizes as the last pre-pandemic summer of 2019. But there will undoubtedly be more people vacationing in the summer months of 2021 than in 2020 if the trend persists.
Coastal getaways where social distancing is relatively easy are popular. The booking sites also report interest in cities.
Travel Jobs Increasing
The U.S. Travel Association reports the travel industry gained 280,000 jobs in March 2021. While the industry unemployment rate is around 13.0% versus the national unemployment rate of 6%, more people are returning to work as people engage in leisure travel again.
Theme Parks Are Reopening
Florida’s theme parks, including Walt Disney World and other theme parks in several states, reopened in 2020 with reduced park capacity and social distancing.
Most theme parks that remained closed in 2020 are reopening for the summer of 2021. Some examples include theme parks like Disneyland and Legoland California, although at extremely limited capacity. Also, these parks are only open to nearby residents for the time being. New York’s iconic Coney Island is also reopening in April 2021.
RV Camping Can Remain Popular
The 2021 camping season is about to get into full swing now that warmer weather is here. While there may not be the surge in RV road trips, frequent campers predict campground occupancy to remain strong even though demand for short-term vacation rentals and hotels is higher than in 2020.
Camping still gives people the flexibility to social distance compared to staying in a hotel. People can also explore remote areas they may not usually travel to if staying in a hotel.
CDC Adjusts Travel Guidelines For Fully Vaccinated
The CDC is loosening the travel guidelines for fully vaccinated travelers. For example, those who travel at least 14 days after receiving their final vaccine dose are not advised to get a pre-travel test, obtain a post-travel test or self-quarantine for up to 10 days.
The CDC recommends that the unvaccinated get pre-travel and post-travel testings. It’s also recommended to self-quarantine for at least five days before getting the first post-travel test.
State and local travel guidelines may supersede the CDC guidance for the fully vaccinated. For example, a state may require all incoming guests to obtain a pre-travel test to waive the mandatory quarantine even if they are vaccinated.
Those who are fully vaccinated must still self-observe for potential symptoms and practice social distancing.
Travel levels are not back to pre-pandemic levels yet, but more people are leaving home for domestic getaways than in 2020. Popular tourist destinations like beaches and outdoor events are popular. But people are also traveling to see distant family for the first time in over one year.