More than 37 million Americans are expected to travel during the Memorial Day holiday weekend as US tourism has substantially picked up after more than a year of the Covid-19 pandemic.
From May 27 through May 31, more than 37 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home, an increase of 60 per cent from last year when only 23 million travelled, the American Automobile Association (AAA) said on Friday.
The expected strong increase in demand from last year’s holiday, which fell during the early phase of the pandemic, still represents 13 per cent, or nearly 6 million, fewer travellers than the Memorial Day holiday in 2019, Xinhua news agency quoted the AAA as saying.
AAA booking data also reveal that domestic travel and road trips remain the biggest drivers of travel recovery in the near term, with Orlando and Las Vegas as the top Memorial Day destinations this year.
“As more people get the Covid-19 vaccine and consumer confidence grows, Americans are demonstrating a strong desire to travel this Memorial Day,” said AAA Travel’s Senior Vice President Paula Twidale.
“This pent-up demand will result in a significant increase in Memorial Day travel, which is a strong indicator for summer, though we must all remember to continue taking important safety precautions,” Twidale said.
Data from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) also showed that more than 1.85 million people passed through TSA checkpoints at airports across the country on Thursday, compared to just 321,776 on the same day last year.
With more than half of the US adult population vaccinated and new Covid cases plummeting, airline travel, hotel bookings and tourist attraction attendance is rebounding convincingly across most popular tourist destinations, according to Mark Vitner and Charlie Dougherty, economists at Wells Fargo Securities.
“The up-shift in travel is occurring alongside a significant ramp up in economic activity. Diminishing Covid risks, multiple rounds of fiscal stimulus and over a year’s worth of pent-up demand are all coming together to generate a surge in consumer spending,” the economists wrote Friday in an analysis.
Another factor contributing to the expected increase in travel is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recently updated guidance that fully vaccinated people can travel domestically at low risk to themselves, according to the AAA.
Meanwhile, many states and local governments are following through the CDC guidance by fully lifting any remaining operating restrictions on businesses, including theme parks, sports facilities and entertainment venues.
Vitner and Dougherty believed that overall, US travel and tourism “appear ready for take off” this year, while the recovery comes with a few risks.
“The travel and tourism industry has not been immune to the supply constraints which are hindering nearly every aspect of the economy right now,” they wrote, noting hotels and restaurants are having difficulty finding the workers they need.
Continuing concerns about the virus, the difficulty in finding affordable child care, higher transportation costs, and expanded unemployment benefits are making it difficult for firms to hire workers, according to the economists.
The US leisure and hospitality industry added 331,000 jobs in April, but the industry has only regained roughly 65 per cent of the 8.2 million jobs lost during the lockdown period last year.
“Despite these supply headwinds, conditions in the travel and tourism industry will improve substantially in 2021 and evidence of that should become increasingly obvious as the summer travel season begins this weekend,” Vitner and Dougherty concluded.