CLEVELAND, Ohio – This weekend marks the unofficial start of the summer travel season, and if it seems like almost everyone is planning a trip, you wouldn’t imagine it.
The demand for leisure travel is increasing, according to numerous surveys. And if you’re not traveling on Memorial Day, you’re probably thinking about where you want to go later this summer.
“A significant release from pent-up demand for leisure travel is occurring right now,” said Amir Eylon, President and CEO of Longwoods International, a Columbus-based travel research company.
Longwoods’ most recent survey found that 89% of U.S. travelers were planning a trip for the next six months, the highest percentage since early March 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic ended much of the world. travel industry.
A side effect of this growing demand, however, is soaring prices. The costs of airline tickets, rental cars, accommodation and gasoline have all risen recently or are increasing, according to recent studies.
In fact, the Longwoods investigation earlier this month found that travelers had become more concerned about costs and less concerned about COVID in recent weeks.
The increase in travel demand also matches the ongoing reopening of previously banned destinations and options. The European Union, for example, agreed last week to reopen many of its borders this summer to vaccinated travelers from the United States and elsewhere; and large-ship cruises, stopped in the country for more than a year, are expected to restart next month.
Unfortunately, the Canadian border – which is of particular interest to residents of Ohio who have family or property there – remains closed, and no one knows at all when it will reopen.
Here’s what you need to know when planning your summer getaway:
Increasing air traffic means increasing fares
the Transportation safety administration reports an increasing number of air travelers.
On Sunday, 1.86 million passengers passed through TSA checkpoints – 90% of the total on the same day in 2019. And the number is expected to continue to rise.
Travel site Hopper predicts that the average round-trip airfare for domestic flights will peak at around $ 293 by the end of June, up 16% in the past two months. Air fares this summer will be 35% higher than last summer, but down 4% from 2019.
In Cleveland, the average airfare was $ 284 at the end of May, just below the national average, and down 6% from two years ago, according to Hopper.
International tariffs, meanwhile, are also expected to rise, peaking at around $ 800 in late June. According to an analysis by Hopper, air fares to Europe rose significantly this month, due to the planned reopening of many European countries.
Where are people going? The most common national searches for Hopper were in Las Vegas, Denver, and Miami; internationally, San Juan, Puerto Rico; Cancun; and Mexico City led, although London and Paris also placed in the top 10.
Canada is an international destination that Americans cannot yet visit. The Canadian and US governments announced earlier this month an extension of the ongoing border closure between the two countries until at least June 21.
Kathryn Bryk Friedman, a professor at the University of Buffalo and an expert on Canada-U.S. Relations, said the date of the border reopening was not at all clear. “I don’t have a crystal ball,” she said. “I suspect that if that happens, it won’t be until August or September at the earliest.”
Where do people want to go?
Local travel agent Kim Gray said she does not see renewed interest in returning to Europe yet. Most of the recent inquiries she has received about Europe have come from travelers who live there with families.
She sees renewed interest in travelers ready to go on cruises.
Just this week, the US Centers for Disease Control cleared a major cruise line back into US waters. the Celebrity edge is expected to be the first ship out of a U.S. port since March 2020, departing Port Everglades, Florida on June 26. Among the conditions: the entire crew and all American passengers aged 16 and over will be vaccinated.
Additionally, Congress recently passed legislation allowing the temporary suspension of a rule requiring Alaska cruises to stop in Canada, which banned cruising in its waters until early 2022. The law, signed by President Biden this week, means Alaska cruises are expected. to be resumed at the end of July.
“There is pent-up demand for the cruise,” said Gray, the owner of Travel Leaders in North Olmsted. She added that part of this demand was driven by good business. “They want people to come back to these ships.”
She noted that most cruise lines require passengers to be vaccinated, with a few exceptions for children and others.
In addition to an increased interest in cruises, Gray said travelers to Cleveland were also very interested in Hawaii and “any national place.”
“I sold more Hawaii this summer than in the past five years,” she said.
Eylon, with Longwoods, said parts of the United States are attracting more tourists than they did before the pandemic, including popular beach destinations, particularly in Florida and the Southeast.
According to STR, a travel research firm, only three major U.S. cities saw their average hotel rates exceed 2019 rates for early May: Tampa, Miami and Norfolk / Virginia Beach. Tampa also saw its hotel occupancy rate rise above 2019 levels to 72%.
One factor that may hold back the growing public interest in travel is rising costs.
Rental cars, in particular, have seen their costs skyrocket – up 95% year-to-date, according to Hopper, at an average price of $ 99 per day before taxes.
In some popular vacation destinations, the price is even higher – $ 126 per day for a car in Phoenix, $ 125 in Miami.
The price increase is in part fueled by the reduction in their fleets by rental companies during the pandemic, combined with a continued shortage of new vehicles caused by production delays.
Add the rising price of gasoline to a rental car, and the problem is exacerbated.
Accommodation prices are also increasing, according to Hopper, although they remain well below 2019 levels.
According to Hopper, hotel prices per night have risen about 11% nationwide since mid-March, averaging $ 141 per night. Yet it is 19% less than before the pandemic.
Prices rebounded the fastest in areas such as the Southeast Coast, Florida Panhandle, Southwest Utah and the Smoky Mountains, according to Hopper.
At the same time, hotel occupancy rates and overnight rates in major cities remain below the national average.
Eylon said there is an opportunity for mid-sized cities, places like Columbus and Cleveland, to take advantage of their affordability.
“There is an opportunity for secondary destinations, for regional destinations by car, to take advantage of their status as a more affordable option,” he said.
More generally, Eylon said it recommends travelers not to wait for last-minute deals this summer.
“Especially if you are going to the beach, book early,” he says. “Take the tour, as always. And if price is a factor, consider lesser-known or secondary destinations. “
Memorial Day trip
How much: AAA predicts 37 million people will travel this weekend, up 60% from a year ago, but down 13% from 2019
How will they get there? 34 million with reader; 2.5 million will fly (almost 600% compared to a year ago); 237,000 will travel by bus or train
Gas cost: $ 2.94 per gallon, the highest since 2014