The coming of summer often brings to mind images of vacations, flights to exotic locales and family road trips. However, with the current climate following the COVID-19 pandemic, area travel agents are reporting many travellers are hesitant to hit the road.
With peak travel season approaching, many travel agents are reporting that most travellers are choosing to stay closer to home this year rather than flying internationally due to travel restrictions, some destinations shutting their doors and lingering fears from the pandemic.
Vickie White, an agent with Vickie White Travel, said calls have been down this year, but trends are starting to change as people start to feel comfortable leaving the house again. In March, travel to and from many destinations, including Europe, was restricted due to the pandemic’s spread.
“I think in the heart of the quarantine, of course I was getting no phone calls because most people were just cancelling things, so I was busy cancelling and issuing refunds, that sort of thing,” White said. “What I see now is people are looking out and looking at what is left of the summer and trying to salvage it.”
Despite a lingering desire to travel, White said many are choosing to stay closer to home rather than travel internationally or across the country. Instead, many are looking at destinations within a day’s drive.
“I have lots of people asking about things within five, six or eight hours driving time and resorts, bed and breakfasts, spas and that kind of thing,” she said.
Christy Wagnitz, owner of Gateway Travel, said some of her regular travellers are ready to set out again, but these trips are mostly to nearby countries. Many of these destinations opened travel again in early June, with more slated to open up in early July.
“People who are frequent travellers and like to travel internationally are still keeping reservations to places like Mexico and the Caribbean,” Wagnitz said. “Most people who love to go there are ready to go, for sure.”
This uptick in interest has done little to offset the hit that the industry has taken. Right now, Wagnitz said she is seeing only about one-fourth of the trips booked that she normally would for this time of year. One of the biggest hits has been the cruise industry, as many ships have ceased operations until at least August 1.
“With those who have cancelled there are incentives to rebook, but people are hesitant because they don’t know what it’s going to look like when it reopens,” she said.
“Some of the traditional hot spots we always see are lots of beach destinations,” White said. “Some of the Florida beaches, I feel, are going to be really hot this year.”
Among domestic travel sites seeing high demand in 2020 are Florida and the gulf shores in Alabama, Wagnitz said. Closer to home, White said Waco and San Antonio are proving to be popular day trip destinations.
“Those are always popular destinations and I think they will be even more so this year because people don’t want to get on an airplane, they want to drive,” she said.
Looking even further out, White said she is already seeing demand for trips to Colorado in August, when summer heat reaches its peak in Texas.
“It’s always something of a joke that Colorado becomes Texas in August,” she said. “You have the heat here and people are trying to get a last splash before school. Even in Durango, it’s probably 20 degrees cooler than it is here.”
For those looking to travel further, Wagnitz said many airlines are offering cheaper tickets in an attempt to entice travellers to fly the skies again.
“There are still some really good prices out there,” she said. “We’re seeing Aruba pricing between $400 and $500, and that’s usually a $700 ticket.”
While the summer months are always hot for traveling, both agents said they expect the fall months to pick up some of the summer loss. During these months, adults and older travelers typically take advantage of the lower traffic from travelling families and children, Wagnitz said.