The hard hit hotel industry is trying to turn itself around with the idea of “vaxications” as more people get vaccinated for COVID-19.
With people being stuck at home for so long, the hotel industry is betting that million of them can’t wait for a well-deserved vacation. And it seems that many Americans are already planning “celebratory vacations” for a few weeks after they get their dose of the vaccine.
Leah Smith, president of Tafari Travel, told Bloomberg, that her company has seen a 25% jump in travel inquiries since the first batch of vaccinations become available in the U.S. “Pretty much weekly, I am getting emails from clients saying they just got their first vaccination and are ready to plan the next two years of travel,” Smith told Bloomberg. “It’s not uncommon to get up to four trip requests in one email.”
Part of the reason for the sudden spike in vacation interest is that many people, after staying put for more than one year, have lots of money to spare on their trips, said Craig Beal, owner of Travel Beyond, which is based in Minnesota.
For the ailing hotel industry, this rebound in travel really can’t come soon enough. Hotel occupancy in the U.S. fell to its lowest on record at just 24.5% in April 2020, compared to an average occupancy rate of 66% in 2019. The American Hotel and Lodging Association reckons that the pandemic has wiped out more than a decade of job growth in the hospitality sector.
Worse still, analysts say the sector probably won’t make a full recovery until 2024 at the earliest. Still, some hotels are at least hoping to make good progress this year, and analysts say that hotel occupancy should rebound to an average of 52.5% in 2021. Moreover, hotel room revenue is set to rise to $25.9 billion by the end of this year, experts forecast. That’s encouraging, but still 34% lower than pre-pandemic revenue levels.
The mass vaccinations kicking off in the U.S. and elsewhere are extremely welcome news for hotels then. Once the pandemic is under control people will be free to travel again, though medical experts say that travelers should still exercise caution. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has cautioned around planning post-vaccination travels too soon.
With that in mind, most people who are planning their travels are looking at destinations with outdoor settings and socially distanced activities, travel industry reps say.
“People want to start out with remote places, where they can be outside most of the time,” said Brooke Lavery, a partner at the high-end travel firm Local Foreigner. “They’re still not ready to return to busy resorts.”