Sure, some airlines report that bookings are weaker in the wake of the latest delta surge. Industry insiders say that, otherwise, travel sentiment seems to be holding steady, if not improving.
“Most of my clients want to travel,” says Terry Bahri, an adviser with Ovation Travel Group. “Some are traveling to Europe, Africa and other open destinations. Clients who are vaccinated and traveling are not very concerned about the delta variant.”
Short-term rental property management platform Guesty reports that Christmas reservation volume in the United States is 42 percent higher than 2019 and up 100 percent from last year. The average nightly rate for Christmas 2021 is already at $602 per night, compared with $380 per night in 2020 and $331 per night in 2019.
Timothy Totten, who runs Architecture Travel Companion, a tour company that specializes in architecture, says there’s a reason people are pressing on with their trips: If they are vaccinated, they can travel safely. He will soon be taking a group to southwestern Pennsylvania to tour Frank Lloyd Wright homes, a trip that sold out within 24 hours.
“I believe it’s possible to travel and be safer from covid than most expect,” Totten says.
I caught up with Florencia Ramirez, the director of an environmental nonprofit from Oxnard, Calif., on her way to Disneyland in early August with her husband and three children. She says she’s not worried about covid.
“While Orange County is a delta hot spot, it’s also a place where the mask mandates are followed,” she says. “Disneyland is enforcing the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] guidelines for masks and social distancing, and reducing ticket sales. That causes me to feel like the risks are at a level I can live with.”
She says her family hesitated to travel at first. But after they were vaccinated, they felt much more comfortable, and they have since been to New Mexico and Hawaii. She has no plans to stop traveling.
Sally Greenberg caught the coronavirus more than a year ago on a road trip to Mississippi. She received her vaccine doses in February and March, so she feels it’s safe for her to travel again.
Greenberg, who runs a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C., says the delta variant has not deterred her from making plans. She’s traveled from Washington to Michigan, to Florida and Oregon. She’s driven and flown. She’s done everything she can to stay safe, including wearing masks when required and practicing social distancing.
“I have tickets to Spain late this summer,” she adds. “If they let us in.”
Businesses are tweaking their rules to keep pace with the pandemic. In July at the Club Wyndham Long Wharf in Newport, R.I., staff members wore masks but didn’t require them for vaccinated guests indoors. A few days ago, when I checked into the Latchis Hotel in Brattleboro, Vt., a receptionist asked me for proof of vaccination and required masks in the property’s public areas.
It’s hard to predict what will happen if this trend continues — if demand remains high, despite the virus. Typically, travel slows down during the early fall, and even in a normal year, there will be bargains. This year will probably be no exception. In mid-fall, experts say, we could see a deal or two if the pandemic worsens. But don’t expect prices to be lower than they were last year, before vaccines were available. That may never happen again.
“Despite the fact that the delta variant is spreading, occupancy in popular resort destinations like the Caribbean, Mexico, Florida and American ski resorts is so strong that I don’t expect rates to dip,” says Jack Ezon, managing partner at Embark Beyond. “On the contrary, for everyone who cancels a room, there are three people behind them waiting to grab it — many times at a higher price. People are so desperate to get away and so flush with money that it has become the Wild West, similar to the price wars we see in the suburban real estate market.”
What would make people stop traveling? I asked Lee Cohen, an accountant from Brooklyn who just returned from a trip to Italy’s Amalfi Coast, Lake Como and Milan.
“I just needed a break after a long 18 months of the pandemic,” Cohen tells me. “My wife and I both had covid and are fully vaccinated. We feel comfortable with the effective percentage of the vaccination, and it is time to start living life again. We cannot live in fear of this pandemic any longer.”
But he says he would have canceled his trip — and he would cancel a future trip — under one condition.
“If a family member living in my household gets covid or I was exposed to covid, I wouldn’t go. I wouldn’t want to cause the spread of it,” he says.
Other than that, it’s open season on travel for many. They’re tired of shutdowns and quarantines, and they’re ready to get out there again.
Susie Perloff, a retired editor, is heading to Europe in September. The highlight is three weeks in Paris, where she plans to brush up on her French. She’s fully vaccinated — and defiant.
“If I stayed home alone,” she says, “I’d shrivel up and die.”
Elliott is a consumer advocate, journalist and co-founder of the advocacy group Travelers United. Email him at email@example.com.
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