Posts Tagged ‘travel trends’

AAA Advises to ‘Buckle Up: Thanksgiving Travel to Rebound Almost to Pre-Pandemic Levels’

November 17, 2021
Airports and roads may seem jam-packed this year as AAA predicts 53.4 million people to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020. This brings travel volumes within 5% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019, with air travel almost completely recovering from its dramatic fall during the pandemic, up 80% over last year. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Airports and roads may seem jam-packed this year as AAA predicts 53.4 million people to travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020. This brings travel volumes within 5% of pre-pandemic levels in 2019, with air travel almost completely recovering from its dramatic fall during the pandemic, up 80% over last year. As restrictions continue to lift and consumer confidence builds, AAA urges travelers to be proactive when making their travel plans this holiday season.

“This Thanksgiving, travel will look a lot different than last year,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “Now that the borders are open and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again high on the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with their loved ones for the holiday.”

With 6.4 million more people traveling this Thanksgiving coupled with the recent opening of the U.S. borders to fully vaccinated international travelers—people should prepare for roads and airports to be noticeably more crowded.

2021 Thanksgiving Holiday Travelers
TotalAutomobileAirOther (Bus, Train, Cruise)
2021 Forecast53.4M48.3M4.2M1M
2020 Actual47.1M44.5M2.3M281,000
2019 Actual56M49.9M4.6M1.5M
Change YOY 2019 to 2021−5%−3%−9%−31%
Change YOY 2020 to 2021+13%+8%+80%+262%

“International travel re-opening will allow people to reconnect with friends and family and explore new places, while also giving a much-needed boost to the economy,” continued Twidale. “But it also means airports will be busier than we’ve seen, so travelers must plan for long lines and extra time for TSA checks.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently released its recommendations for holiday gatherings and related travel, saying that the best way to minimize COVID-19 risk is to get vaccinated if you’re eligible. However, everyone’s situation is unique and therefore, AAA urges anyone considering gathering or traveling for Thanksgiving to consult CDC guidance before finalizing holiday plans.

Navigating the New Travel Landscape

This year’s forecast marks the highest single-year increase in Thanksgiving travelers since 2005, bringing travel volumes close to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Despite gas costing over a dollar more per gallon than this time last year, 90% of people plan to travel by car as their preferred mode of travel. Although the car is still the most popular choice for travelers, a greater share will opt to travel by air and other modes such as bus, train or cruise this year. Whether you plan to do so by car or plane, it’s important to know how to navigate the new travel landscape to avoid unnecessary stress and challenges on the way to your Thanksgiving destination.

Be Proactive. Book flights, car rentals, accommodations and other activities as early as possible. Prices are not going down and are still somewhat impacted by the limited capacity of flights and staffing challenges faced by many industries. Consider working with a travel advisor who can make any last-minute changes to travel plans, explore travel insurance options and help plan a trip that meets your needs and comfort level this holiday season.

Air—Even with air travel seeing a boost this year, AAA finds that the average lowest airfare is 27.3% less than last year coming in at $132. Tuesday and Wednesday are still the most expensive and heaviest travel days with Monday being the lightest and least expensive. Those wanting to book last-minute travel will find the best fares about two weeks prior to Thanksgiving but keep in mind availability may be limited.

Hotels—Mid-range hotel rates have increased about 39%, with average nightly rates ranging between $137 and $172 for AAA Approved Hotels.

Car Rentals—Daily car rental rates have increased 4% compared to last Thanksgiving at $98. Over the summer, consumers experienced high costs and limited availability of rental cars in some markets, due to the semi-conductor chip shortage impacting automakers. While this shortage has subsided, it is possible it could return as the holidays near.

Be Patient. The roads and airports will be busy so plan ahead.

Arrive at the airport early so you’ll have plenty of time to get through longer TSA lines and other travel checkpoints. For domestic travel, AAA suggests 2 hours ahead of departure time and 3 hours for international.

Consider booking a flight during non-peak travel periods to cut down on wait times.

Hit the road when there’s less traffic and allow for extra time when traveling to your destination.

Be Prepared. For the 48.3 million Americans hitting the road, make sure you and your vehicle are ready for the trip ahead as AAA expects to respond to over 400,000 for help over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. If your vehicle has been sitting idle, AAA suggests getting an inspection to check key components like the battery, fuel system, tires, brakes and fluid levels. These systems are particularly vulnerable to deteriorating if a vehicle sits too long without proper care or maintenance.

Be Protected—Both You and Your Trip.  If you plan to travel during the holidays, it’s essential to do so safely and understand how to protect yourself, your loved ones and your investment while traveling. Also, as travel restrictions remain in flux, it’s essential to know requirements and recommendations based on your vaccination status, where you’re traveling from and your destination. AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com are also helpful resources travelers may use for free to understand closures, recommendations and requirements when traveling in the U.S.

Travel insurance—AAA highly recommends travel insurance to cover unexpected delays or trip interruptions. It is best to consult the expertise of a travel advisor who can guide you on the coverage options available for your specific trip, including if your destination requires visitors to carry travel insurance.

Clean accommodations—When booking a place to stay, look for accommodations that prioritize cleanliness and have implemented additional housekeeping standards since the start of the pandemic. Earlier this year, as part of its Diamond designation, AAA enhanced its housekeeping evaluation to include objective, scientific validation of the cleanliness of common surfaces throughout hotels. Hotels that meet these new standards are now recognized as Inspected Clean and a current listing can be found here.

Safe travel = smart travel—Everything from airports to restaurants to attractions will be busier this Thanksgiving, which means more people congregating. Masks are still required for everyone on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations. The CDC also recommends everyone wear a mask indoors in public if they are in an area of substantial or high transmission.

Domestic and international travel guidelines—As of November 8, the U.S. opened its borders to fully vaccinated travelers. The CDC has updated its guidance to reflect these changes. When traveling within the U.S., fully vaccinated travelers do not need a negative viral test or to self-quarantine. For international travel, refer to the CDC for specific guidelines.

Travelers Headed to Big Cities and Beaches This Thanksgiving

AAA Travel continues to see a strong recovery that began over the summer and will continue into the holiday season. AAA booking data reveals that big cities and tropical destinations are topping travelers’ list this Thanksgiving both domestically and abroad:

2021 Top Thanksgiving Destinations
U.S DestinationsInternational Destinations
Orlando, FLCancun, Mexico
Anaheim, CAMontego Bay, Jamaica
Dallas/Ft. Worth, TXAruba
Phoenix, AZLos Cabos, Mexico
Honolulu, HINassau, Bahamas
Kahului, Maui, HISt. Lucia, West Indies
Atlanta, GADublin, Ireland
Tampa, FL(tie) Tel Aviv, Israel and Calgary, Canada
Ft. Lauderdale, FLParis, France

Roads Will Be Bustling

INRIX, in collaboration with AAA, predicts drivers will experience the worst congestion heading into the holiday weekend as commuters leave work early and mix with holiday travelers. Major metro areas across the U.S. could see more than double the delays versus typical drive times, with drivers in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles and New York City likely to experience more than three times the delays.

“Thanksgiving is one of the busiest holidays for road trips and this year will be no different even during the pandemic,” says Bob Pishue, Transportation Analyst, INRIX. “Drivers around major metros must be prepared for significant delays, especially Wednesday afternoon. Knowing when and where congestion will build can help drivers avoid the stress of sitting in traffic.”

Worst Corridors and Times to Travel
Metro AreaCorridorPeak Congestion% Over Normal
AtlantaI-85 S, Clairmont Rd to MLK DrWed, 1:30 – 3:30PM340%
BostonI-93 N, Quincy Market to MA-28Wed, 1:00 – 3:00PM240%
ChicagoI-290 W, Morgan St to Wolfe RdWed, 2:45 – 4:45PM329%
DetroitI-96 W, 6 Mile Rd to Walled LakeWed, 2:00 – 4:00PM211%
HoustonI-10 W, Sjolander Rd to TX-330Wed, 3:15 – 5:15PM344%
Los AngelesI-5 S, Colorado St to Florence AveWed, 3:45 – 5:45PM385%
New YorkI-495 E, Borden Ave to Little Neck PkwyWed, 2:30 – 4:30PM482%
San FranciscoI-80 E, I-580 to San Pablo Dam RdWed, 4:00 – 6:00PM278%
SeattleI-5 S, WA-18 to WA-7Wed, 4:00 – 6:00PM257%
Washington DCI-95 S, I-395 to VA-123Wed, 2:00 – 4:00PM230%
Source: INRIX
Daily Worst and Best Times to Travel
DayWorst TimeBest Time
Wednesday12:00 – 8:00PMAfter 9:00PM
Thursday12:00 – 3:00PMBefore 11:00AM
Friday1:00 – 4:00PMBefore 11:00AM
Saturday2:00 – 7:00PMBefore 12:00PM
Sunday1:00 – 7:00PMBefore 12:00PM
Source: INRIX

Expected Number May Change

AAA notes that the actual number of holiday travelers could fluctuate as we approach Thanksgiving. If there is an increase in reported COVID-19 cases, some people may decide to stay home, while others may note the progress in vaccinations and make last-minute decisions to travel. AAA recommends working with a travel advisor who can help you plan a vacation that meets your needs and comfort level this holiday season. To get started and to learn more, visit AAA.com/Travel.

AAA provides more than 62 million members with automotive, travel, insurance and financial services through its federation of 30 motor clubs and nearly 1,000 branch offices across North America. Since 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for safe mobility. Drivers can request roadside assistance, identify nearby gas prices, locate discounts, book a hotel or map a route via the AAA Mobile app. To join, visit AAA.com.

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Car Rental Prices Up for Holidays, AutoSlash Offers Money-Saving Strategies

November 17, 2021

Car rental inventory is tightening and rates are rising for holiday travel © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

How much will your holiday car rental cost? 

Since Labor Day, travelers have seen lower car rental rates and better availability. Prices, which were averaging near $100 per day during the summer, had come down to a more reasonable $50 to $75 per day during September and October.

But with the holidays just around the corner, AutoSlash – a leading site for budget car rentals – is seeing sky-high rates coming back. And with inventory tightening in the coming days and weeks, the company expects average rates to top $100 per day in many parts of the country (for example, rates in the NYC metro area are $125 – $150 per day over Thanksgiving, and rates exceed $100 per day at major Florida airports).

Jonathan Weinberg, CEO and founder of AutoSlash says travelers can protect themselves from higher rates and a general lack of availability with a few simple money-saving strategies, including:

  • Plan as far ahead as possible and always book a pay-later car rental so you have flexibility if your plans change and can secure a lower rate if a better deal comes along
  • Check all discounts that you qualify for, such as AAA, Costco, AARP, USAA, frequent flyer programs and credit cards
  • Rent at off-airport locations to avoid higher rates, taxes and fees typically charged by airport car rental locations
  • Sign up for rental company loyalty programs so you can skip the counter and avoid long lines, check in online and get on your way quickly
  • Be strategic about add-on options. Fill up the car yourself at the end of the rental, look for deals on child car seats, and more.

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American Hotel Industry Bemoans that Most Americans Plan to Stay Home for Holidays

November 17, 2021
The American Hotel & Lodging Association is bemoaning the fact that while travel has rebounded from the 2020 pandemic, most Americans are still opting to stay home this holiday season with majority of Americans not planning to travel for Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

new national survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and conducted by Morning Consult shows that 29% of Americans are likely to travel for Thanksgiving and 33% are likely to travel for Christmas—an increase from 21% and 24%, respectively, compared to 2020. Those who do plan to travel over the holidays expect to drive, but rising gas prices may dampen those plans. Fifty-two percent of Americans say they plan to take fewer trips and 53% plan to take shorter trips due to rising gas prices.

Still, most Americans are still opting to stay home this holiday season with 61% of Americans not planning to travel for Thanksgiving. 

“While vaccines have helped travelers feel more comfortable, rising gas prices and continued concerns about the pandemic are making many Americans hesitant to travel during the holidays,” commented American Hotel & Lodging Association President and CEO Chip Rogers. “Despite a slight expected uptick in holiday travel this year, hotels will continue to face economic fallout from the pandemic, underscoring the need for targeted federal relief, such as the Save Hotel Jobs Act, to support the industry and its workforce until travel fully returns.” 
 
Some recent media coverage regarding this new survey, and you can download a one-pager on the results HERE.
 

  • CBS News Radio: “While rising vaccination rates against COVID-19 have increased travelers comfort levels, most Americans are still opting to stay home this holiday as gas prices break the bank. According to a new survey for the American Hotel and Lodging Association, nearly sixty percent of Americans say they’re unlikely to travel for either Thanksgiving or the Christmas holidays. More than half of those asked say they plan to take fewer trips or shorter trips due to rising gas prices.”
  • Los Angeles Times: “According to a recent survey commissioned by the American Hotel and Lodging Assn., 29% of Americans said they were likely to travel for Thanksgiving — up from 21% last year. The share of people who said they were likely to do so for Christmas, 33%, was also up from last year’s 24%. Of those surveyed, 58% said they were planning to vacation somewhere within driving distance on account of the pandemic.”
  • WFLA (NBC – Tampa, FL): “Not heading to grandma’s for Thanksgiving. You’re not alone. Plenty of Americans are skipping out on that holiday tradition according to the American Hotel Lodging Association just one in three Americans plan to travel for Christmas and only 29% plan to travel for Thanksgiving. The organization blames rising gas prices and the ongoing pandemic concerns for keeping Americans at home.”
  • Chicago Sun Times: Travel Uptick Expected This Thanksgiving, But Hotel Industry Still Hurting, Reports Say “Millions more Americans are expected to be on the road and in the sky this Thanksgiving holiday, but the hotel industry says it’s still hurting. AAA predicts travel will recover to within 5% of pre-pandemic levels this Thanksgiving, with millions of Americans and Illinoisans traveling by car and plane. But the American Hotel and Lodging Association says the industry is still suffering from pandemic-era disruptions. ‘Despite a slight expected uptick in holiday travel this year, hotels will continue to face economic fallout from the pandemic,’ said Chip Rogers, CEO of the AHLA. Over 53 million Americans will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, an increase of 13% from 2020, AAA predicts. And in Illinois, total travel figures will be within 7 % of pre-pandemic levels. In the skies, domestic air travel “has almost completely recovered from its dramatic drop-off during the pandemic” and is up 80% from last year, AAA said.”
  • KOMO News (ABC – Seattle, WA):“Thanksgiving is almost two weeks away and more people will be traveling to see friends and family, a welcome change from last year. But according to one survey, some Americans are adjusting their plans to account for rising gas prices. A new Morning Consult survey on behalf of the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) found that people were more likely to travel this year, compared to last, but the price at the pump was putting a damper on their plans. The survey conducted at the end of October found 61% of respondents reported they were not likely to travel for Thanksgiving and 59% said they probably wouldn’t travel for Christmas. That’s an improvement last year when 70% said they wouldn’t travel, largely due to COVID-19.”

Meanwhile, AAA is predicting 53 million people will travel over Thanksgiving weekend – the busiest weekend since the pandemic, with Sunday the single busiest travel day of the year.

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Where to Go in 2019: USTOA Reveals Top Destinations, Travel Trends

February 7, 2019

Venice_082518_576e2(c) Karen Rubin

Venice, Italy. USTOA named Italy as the top destination for 2019, but also raised concern about the impact of overtourism in the most popular places, like Venice. © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

Tour operator members of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) named Italy the most popular or “hot” destination for travelers in 2019, in a recent survey conducted by PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC).

The top 10 “hot” destinations for the coming year also included Iceland, which ranked second, followed by Japan, Vietnam, Australia, France, Spain, Colombia, Cambodia and Portugal.

USTOA tour operator members also identified their top 10 off-the-beaten path or emerging destinations that they see gaining popularity in 2019: Iceland ranked first, Cambodia ranked second, followed by Croatia, Colombia, Vietnam, Portugal, Bhutan, Bolivia, Myanmar, and Ethiopia.

“It’s interesting see five destinations – Iceland, Cambodia, Colombia, Vietnam and Portugal – appear on both the hot destinations and emerging destinations lists,” added Terry Dale, President and CEO of USTOA. “This tells us that off-the-beaten path travel experiences continue to grow in popularity among travelers.”

Demand for immersive, culturally rich travel programs continue to remain high. Roughly 82% of members offer art and culture travel experiences. The art and culture category was also the highest ranked experiential program for travelers in 2017, based on volume of sales. Two thirds of membership offer honeymoon and romance programs, 63% of members offer adventure programs, and more than half (56%) offer multi-generational family programs.

Economic Impact and Growth Ahead

According to the study, the tour operator members of USTOA project to close out 2018 with sales reaching $18.7 billion dollars, representing 9.8 million individual travelers.

Furthermore, member operators are extremely confident about business in the year ahead: 100% of responding tour operator members anticipate growth in sales in 2019.

“Since the first PwC study was commissioned in 2012, it’s the first time we’ve seen such a bullish response with our entire membership projecting growth ahead,” said Dale. “It’s even more encouraging that more than half of members (56%) forecast growth of sales ranging from seven to 10% or more in 2019, indicating a potential boom year.”

While the Active Members of USTOA view the upcoming year with optimism, they also addressed the global risks that could impact the industry over the next three years. Terrorism topped the list with 17% of members responding they are “extremely concerned.”  However, this level of concern is a considerable drop compared to the 2016 PwC study when more than half of member (59%) were “extremely concerned.”

Political instability and overtourism, a new category this year, were the next two global risks that members were “extremely concerned” about, as named by 13% of survey respondents.

In addition, tour operator members projected that roughly 63% of total packages sold in 2018 were through travel agencies, “Reinforcing the critical role of travel advisors in the continued success of members’ businesses,” Dale cited.

When asked whose traveling, tour operator members responded that about half (48%) of their customer base are 51 to 70 years of age. The next largest category was age 36 to 50 years representing 20% of customers. Gender is split evenly with 51% female and 49% male.  Within the escorted/guided and custom tour category, female passengers were represented slightly higher at 59%.

The research was released at USTOA’s 40th Annual Conference & Marketplace, held at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge in Phoenix AZ, November 26-30, 2018.

U.S. Tour Operators Association members, representing nearly $19 billion in revenue, provide tours, packages and custom arrangements that allow 9.8 million travelers annually access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value and freedom to enjoy destinations and experiences across the entire globe. Each member company has met the travel industry’s highest standards, including participation in the USTOA’s Travelers Assistance Program, which protects consumer payments up to $1 million if the company goes out of business.  As a voice for the tour operator industry for more than 40 years, USTOA also provides education and assistance for consumers and travel agents.

For more information on USTOA, visit www.ustoa.com, call 212-599-6599, or email information@ustoa.com.

 

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Iceland, Colombia, Vietnam Top List of Emerging Destinations for 2018, US Tour Operators Say

February 12, 2018

I

Iceland was named top emerging or “off-the-beaten-path” destination for 2018 by US tour operators © Karen Rubin/goingplacesfarandnear.com

NEW YORK – In a survey of US tour operators, Iceland was named top emerging or “off-the-beaten-path” destination for 2018, moving to the top spot from second in last year’s member survey.  Colombia followed in second, with Vietnam named as third.

When asked for the five most popular or “hot” international destinations for travelers in 2018, members of the US Tour Operators Association (USTOA) named Australia, Spain, Iceland and Italy (tied for third), France, and Japan.  On the domestic front, USTOA members forecast California, Florida and Hawaii (tied for second), New York, Alaska and Nevada (tied for fourth) and Washington DC as the most popular U.S. destinations for clients in 2018.

Members were also asked to name the destinations/sites most “at risk” from disappearing (from over-tourism, climate change or other factors) that travelers should see now. The top three chosen were Antarctica, Cuba and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef.

Arts and culture, adventure, family, and culinary were cited as the most popular travel categories for passengers by survey participants.

In the annual survey of travel forecasts and trends, the tour operators report a strikingly positive outlook for the industry in the year ahead.  Nearly all (95%) USTOA tour operator members anticipate growth in sales for the year ending in 2018. Two thirds (64%) of members are “optimistic” and forecasting a “boom year” with growth anywhere from seven to 10% or higher.

After strong sales increases in 2017, “Member confidence levels for continued growth in 2018 are high,” said Terry Dale, president and CEO for USTOA.  “The reported growth and positive projections the year ahead are particularly encouraging. It speaks soundly to the remarkable resilience of both our industry as well as today’s traveler, who continues to explore, despite the challenges of an ever-changing world.”

While USTOA tour operator members view the forthcoming year with strong optimism, they also addressed the global risks that could impact potential growth in 2018. Terrorism is cited as the biggest threat to consumer confidence, followed by political instability, and global financial instability named third.

In addition, when asked which global events could have the greatest impact for the travel industry in 2018, more than one third (38%) named the sharing economy; a little more than a quarter (28%) cited the Chinese market.

Representing nearly $15 billion in revenue, the member companies of U.S. Tour Operators Association provide tours, packages and custom arrangements that allow 8.6 million travelers annually unparalleled access, insider knowledge, peace-of-mind, value and freedom to enjoy destinations and experiences across the entire globe.   Each member company has met the travel industry’s highest standards, including participation in the USTOA’s Travelers Assistance Program, which protects consumer payments up to $1 million if the company goes out of business. As a voice for the tour operator industry for more than 40 years, USTOA also provides education and assistance for consumers and travel agents. For more information on USTOA, visit www.ustoa.com.

 

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