Let’s be real — a lot of people in this country could use a vacation, and it is a really tough time to try to plan one.
States and counties that have opened may be closing again. Rules about mask-wearing are different, and differently enforced, depending on where you go. And, of course, the number of new COVID-19 cases basically hits a new record every day.
Summer vacation spending — both a release and a huge economic driver —is in limbo. For many Americans, vacation will be “stay-at-home,” or at least “stay close-to-home,” this summer.
Jeanette Casselano, public affairs manager at AAA, predicts travel will decline 15% from last year.
“Air, cruise, bus and rail have really been decimated,” she said. They’re down 75% to 85%.
What’s hardly down at all is road-tripping. Casselano said people are waiting until the last minute to decide — based on COVID-19 numbers, beach openings and the like. It helps that gas is cheap.
“People are really turning to their own personal vehicles or rental vehicles, and that’s because [the] car provides so much flexibility,” Casselano said.
As for conditions once travelers arrive — with the exception of big urban convention venues — most hotels will be open, though with lower occupancy than before the pandemic, according to Chip Rogers, president of the American Hotel and Lodging Association.
Rogers said guests will see ramped-up cleaning in public spaces and will be greeted with new options like “the opportunity to do a number of things, from checking in, to receiving food, in a contact-less manner.”
“In places like pool decks, bars, restaurants, workout areas — if they’re open — you’ll see the seating or the equipment separated by space so that people can keep six feet of distance,” Rogers said.
Some people are still flying — mostly to see friends or family or for love.
Sarah Sumner, 27, is a yoga teacher living in Brooklyn.
“I met someone online and was like ‘Oh, my goodness I need to meet them in person,'” Sumner said. “So I ended up flying to Portland.”
Her flights in May and June were good, she said.
“They had taken out the middle seat,” she said. “Everybody was really waiting and being cautious and wanting to not only observe masks but also having social distancing.”
And her new romance? Well, she’s planning another trip later this summer.
But more airlines are trying to sell those middle-seats, reducing the distance between passengers.
“For example, American [Airlines] needs on some routes 75% load-factors to be profitable,” said Peter McNally, an analyst at Third Bridge. “In that case, you’re probably going to see middle seats being used.”
And summer travel decisions keep getting more complicated.
New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have now ordered 14-day quarantines for some out-of-state travelers as COVID-19 cases surge in parts of the U.S.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
What’s the outlook for vaccine supply?
Chief executives of America’s COVID-19 vaccine makers promised in congressional testimony to deliver the doses promised to the U.S. government by summer. The projections of confidence come after months of supply chain challenges and companies falling short of year-end projections for 2020. What changed? In part, drugmakers that normally compete are now actually helping one another. This has helped solve several supply chain issues, but not all of them.
How has the pandemic changed scientific research?
Over the past year, while some scientists turned their attention to COVID-19 and creating vaccines to fight it, most others had to pause their research — and re-imagine how to do it. Social distancing, limited lab capacity — “It’s less fun, I have to say. Like, for me the big part of the science is discussing the science with other people, getting excited about projects,” said Isabella Rauch, an immunologist at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland. Funding is also a big question for many.
What happened to all of the hazard pay essential workers were getting at the beginning of the pandemic?
Almost a year ago, when the pandemic began, essential workers were hailed as heroes. Back then, many companies gave hazard pay, an extra $2 or so per hour, for coming in to work. That quietly went away for most of them last summer. Without federal action, it’s mostly been up to local governments to create programs and mandates. They’ve helped compensate front-line workers, but they haven’t been perfect. “The solutions are small. They’re piecemeal,” said Molly Kinder at the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. “You’re seeing these innovative pop-ups because we have failed overall to do something systematically.”
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