Leisure travel should start picking up by this summer as COVID-19 vaccinations give people hope for vacations they say they desperately need, while business travel should pick up later in 2021, a national travel group said Friday.
That message came in a call with reporters as the U.S. Travel Association opened its annual campaign to encourage people to plan their vacations. Their overall message this year, paraphrased:
Please, please, please plan a trip.
Do it right away. You’ll feel good just planning your vacation. There are plenty of bargains out there. And the travel industry, hardest-hit in the coronavirus crisis, really needs the business. The group focused their message on next Tuesday, which is “National Plan for Vacation Day.”
“America needs a vacation,” said U.S. Travel President Roger Dow.
In more ways than one.
As Florida’s tourism centers know too well, the travel and hospitality industry has been devastated by the pandemic, and they are the slowest to recover.
U.S. Travel, which represents both state and local tourism boards like VISIT FLORIDA and Visit Orlando, as well as businesses involved in travel, estimates the industry lost $500 billion in 2020. There still are 4.5 million people in the field who are unemployed. Travel and hospitality jobs still gone from the pandemic represent about one-third of all lost jobs currently plaguing the economy, Dow said.
Also Friday, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity’s December employment report backed that up. It showed that the state’s leisure and hospitality industry shed 197,000 jobs, about 15.5% of the sector’s total, in the past year. That hole exists even as Florida’s overall unemployment rate crept downward in December to 6.1%.
Last summer, U.S. Travel estimated that Florida alone was losing $1 billion a week in travel and hospitality revenue.
Dow and Erin Francis-Cummings, President of Destination Analysts, stressed that research finds that not only do vacations make people happy, simply having a vacation planned makes people happy. So plan one, they urged.
Francis-Cummings released results of a recent survey her firm did that found 63% of Americans agreed with the statement, “I desperately need a vacation.”
And, she added, “Americans’ pessimism about the pandemic is waning. They’re getting more excited about the future ahead.”
Her survey found hope for the industry: 25% of those surveyed said they expect to travel more this year than they did in 2019, the year before the coronavirus crisis. And 2019 was a good year for the travel industry, Dow said.
Still, travel this year will be limited: 42% of those her firm surveyed said they will visit more outdoor-oriented attractions, and 43% said they will take more trips by car.
But, she and Dow cautioned, nobody’s going to travel until they reach the personal conclusion that it’s safe. All surveys show that the vaccine, not masks, assurances by businesses or actions by the government, will make the greatest difference in that decision.
Dow cited research by another firm that works with U.S. Travel, Tourism Economics.
“Their projections are that we’re going to see travel slowly come back, especially leisure travel, and we’ll see that first, second quarter. But we’ll really begin to see the rise of travel, they’re talking third and fourth quarter. So they’re talking about this summer, June on, to become fairly strong,” Dow said.
“And then corporate travel will start to come in third and fourth quarter, probably, as companies start seeing it’s safe to have people travel,” he added.
Francis-Cummings said her firm’s research, asking people when they expect to travel, says pretty much the same thing.
“We see a spike in July. So there’s a ramp-up, and then a real spike for July. So most Americans say they have plans to travel then,” she said.
U.S. Travel put out a statement Thursday strongly supporting President Joe Biden‘s coronavirus orders, including masks on all forms of travel and tests for international fliers to the United States. The group also applauded Biden’s lift on the ban of travelers from Muslim countries.
However, U.S. Travel expressed concern, not quite opposition, to Biden’s order that international visitors should quarantine after they arrive.