— Travel n Tour

‘We Will Literally Go Anywhere’

When President Biden said in a national address earlier this month that barbecues and in-person get-togethers might be possible for the July 4 holiday, many Americans became hopeful that they might reclaim another summer tradition: the vacation.

Even before the president’s cautiously optimistic speech, online search and booking activity for summer travel was breaking records. On Hopper, a travel booking app, there’s been a nearly 75 percent increase in searches for late-summer flights since late February, when the third vaccine was approved for the United States. The travel search site KAYAK is also seeing interest for summer travel steadily increase, with search traffic on its site growing as much as 27 percent each week.

As for bookings, Hopper reports that domestic bookings are up 58 percent so far this month compared to all of March 2019. More Americans, it seems, are planning sunshine breaks, reunions with grandchildren, or just getting away. “We will literally go anywhere; we’re so desperate to travel,” said Minda Alena, a New Jersey-based interior designer and creative director who is in the process of planning four trips this summer and fall. “We just want to get on a plane and feel like we’ve stepped away from our lives for a week.”

Her vacations will begin with an August trip to Turks & Caicos, a destination that has been on Ms. Alena’s bucket list for years. A visit to Jamaica with her husband will come next, followed by a girls’ getaway to Palm Beach, Fla., for her 50th birthday, and a family trip with her three children to Greece before the end of the year.

Ms. Alena, 49, and her husband are both newly vaccinated. They have lost friends in the pandemic, but she said she feels lucky that no one in her family has gotten sick. However, the last year has changed how her family views their finances: They are more inclined, she said, to take some of the money they have spent years saving and invest it in experiences.

“My husband and I are both like, ‘What are we waiting for?’ Life is too short,” she said.

Shifting consumer attitudes

The pandemic decimated the travel industry last year: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development predicted a decrease in the global tourism economy of up to 80 percent after accounting for all of 2020’s data. But with the pace of vaccinations accelerating and travel numbers ticking up, a rebound — at least in domestic travel — feels imminent. A poll conducted by Amazing America, a website dedicated to the American road trip, found that more than 75 percent of respondents believe it will be safe to travel this summer. (More than 68 percent said the pandemic has pushed them to choose domestic travel over international.)

Pre-pandemic, the average booking window for domestic travel in the United States was between 45 and 60 days before departure. In 2020, however, that window shrunk down to just six or seven days, according to data from Priceline. Hesitancy over quarantine rules, concerns about sickness, and economic uncertainty were factors for those few vacationing. Halee Whiting, the hotel sales consultancy Hospitality With a Flair, creates pricing strategies and tailored packages for hotel brands. Nearly 70 percent of the web traffic for her clients, she said, is now for travel between July and mid-September. “People are itching to get out, but they’re still hesitant,” she said. “With the vaccine being more prevalent and states starting to loosen their guidelines, this summer will be when they are ready to tiptoe out of their bubble.”

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