Travel Grows as Americans Take Vacation Route | Chicago News
Americans hit the road in near record numbers at the start of Memorial Day weekend, as their desire to break free from coronavirus containment overcame rising prices for flights, gasoline and hotels.
More than 1.8 million people passed through U.S. airports on Thursday, and the number is expected to far exceed the 2 million mark over the long holiday weekend – that would be the highest score since early March 2020.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas warned travelers to expect long lines at airports, and on Friday he begged Americans to be patient.
The increase in travel appears to be fueled by an increase in the number of people vaccinated against COVID-19 and also by an improving economy. The US Department of Commerce said consumer spending increased in April, but not as much as in March, proving consumers are recovering from last year’s pandemic recession.
The arrival of Memorial Day coincides with some states removing their remaining pandemic restrictions amid improving cases, hospitalizations and deaths. The Massachusetts mask mandate ends on Saturday, and Virginia eases all distance and capacity restrictions on Friday.
President Joe Biden travels to Virginia to celebrate the unofficial start of summer and his achievements in battling the virus at a time when the state of more than 8 million people averages only 360 cases per day.
At Miami International Airport, officials predict about 115,000 passengers per day during the six-day period ending June 1. Spokesman Greg Chin said the number of airports was equal to pre-pandemic levels. It’s a similar story in Orlando, where airport traffic is at 90% of pre-pandemic levels and people flock to theme parks that recently relaxed restrictions.
AAA expects a 60% increase in travel over the same holiday weekend last year, with 37 million Americans traveling at least 50 miles from home, most by car. The auto club and insurer made this forecast even with gasoline prices at their highest level in seven years – the national average is over $ 3 a gallon for a regular car.
Rental car prices have also risen sharply – if you can find one – after rental companies slashed their fleets to survive last year’s deep drop in travel.
“My mother-in-law called me on vacation and said, ‘Hey, can you rent a car for me?’ I said ‘no,’ said Jordan Staab, president of SmarterTravel Media. “Demand has increased 500% since January and it’s difficult to find a rental car right now, so plan as much as you can.”
Hotels and other accommodations in beach and mountain areas expect larger crowds than those in urban areas. Lou Carrier, president of the Distinctive Hospitality Group, said the company’s two hotels in tourist towns in Connecticut have seen an increase in bookings since the state eased its face mask requirements two weeks ago. , but that the occupancy rate is still only around 20% at its three. hotels in Boston.
Nationwide hotel room rates jumped 9% in April after rising 8% in March, and air fares climbed 10% in April, according to the latest figures available from the Commerce Department.
It does not prevent people from getting on planes. The Transportation Security Administration screened nearly 1.6 million people per day this month, up from 224,000 per day in May 2020.
Most of these people are traveling on vacation or visiting family and friends in the United States. Airline executives say domestic leisure travel has returned to pre-pandemic levels – Delta Air Lines President Glen Hauenstein said this week reservations are now ahead of 2019 pace .
However, business travelers and international visitors are still mostly absent, and airlines are eager to see this lucrative return. One proposal to facilitate international travel is a so-called vaccination passport – an app that would show whether a person has been vaccinated or tested for COVID-19.
Mayorkas, the Homeland Security secretary, told ABC on Friday that the government was looking “very closely” at the idea. The airline industry, the European Union and others are scrambling to develop vaccine passports to boost international travel and revive tourism-based economies.