It might not be the trip they wanted, or when they wanted it, but people are resuming travel plans, says Janelle Fetrow, network manager of the Reading office of Flight Centre Travel Group.
“Folks are definitely anxious to get out and go away again,” she said.
That’s good news for the hospitality and recreation industry, which has had the highest job loss of any industry. Nearly 60% of those industry’s jobs were eliminated in Pennsylvania in recent months according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
And it may be the local attractions that benefit most from Pennsylvanians’ travel.
Looking at the kind of trips being booked for early summer, Fetrow said she’s seeing mostly single-day road trips or travel to domestic locations like Florida beaches and national parks.
That’s similar to what Sally McCorrison, director of travel for AAA East Penn East Central in Allentown is seeing.
“Gas prices have remained low so multi-day road trips, which are our specialty, are becoming an attraction,” she said.
McCorrison said with the limitations on travel in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, such trips are what travel agents were expecting, at least for the short term. AAA’s motor coach trips have been getting a lot of attention and people have been attending their webinars to learn what kind of destinations they can travel to.
Looking into late summer and fall, Fetrow said she’s seeing more people book vacations to Caribbean destinations as more islands and resorts begin reopening themselves to tourism.
And despite some well-publicized stories about travelers being stuck on quarantined cruise ships earlier this year, Fetrow said people are booking cruises because the cruise lines have been offering exceptional deals.
“The prices are untouched and some folks aren’t willing to push back their plans,” she said.
In addition to extremely low prices, the cruise lines are offering deals to people who had to cancel or postpone cruises during the shutdown, McCorrison said. “A lot of people are rebooking and not cancelling.”
Some are offering promotions such as 125% value on re-bookings, which she said many people have been using to get cabin upgrades or book extra services during their vacation.
For those looking to fly, airfare is still surprisingly low, despite dire predictions that prices would skyrocket as airlines try to recoup their losses.
Fetrow said prices were rock bottom during the height of the shutdown, and are now just at about what prices were predicted to be for the summer travel season. European vacations are likely to be the last to return, she said. Most of her clients who were looking to book trips to Europe are looking at dates in 2021. Many popular European cities were particularly hard hit by the coronavirus and have been slow to reopening.
Even for places that have reopened, McCorrison said, many people who want to travel are still concerned about safety. So are airlines, busses and attractions that are beefing up sanitation and working on plans for lower capacity.
She recommends that people concerned about the cleaning levels of a hotel, for example, check to see if it has a AAA Best of Housekeeping badge, which shows its reviewers have inspected the property and have found it to have best practices in cleaning and sanitation.
Both agencies say staying aware of the latest news and changes is important.
While McCorrison said destinations such as the larger Mexican and Caribbean island resorts are already working with airlines on opening dates so flights can be added, that doesn’t mean things can’t change. “Check with the local authorities at a destination to make sure nothing is changed or work with a travel agent that can do that for you,” she said.
Fetrow says it’s now more important than ever to obtain travel insurance before making any major plans. Itineraries can be changed or cancelled. People can get sick. Being quarantined is even a risk.
“There’s so much unknown about the impact of the coronavirus,” she said. “It’s better to be prepared.”