Rough Trip: Travel Still Struggling From Pandemic


The long, slow climb out of the travel abyss brought on by the coronavirus pandemic has barely begun, with Labor Day seeing the highest number of air travelers since the pandemic began six months ago. But that is small solace for the airlines, faced with historic declines and impending layoffs when their federal bailout money runs out at the end of September.

The numbers across the travel industry are downright ugly. According to USA Today, airline passenger traffic is projected to fall 70% for the year, while nearly two out of every three hotels remain at or below 50% occupancy. And then there are cruise lines, which remain completely shut down with the earliest relaunching date on Nov. 1.

Still, people are finding ways to venture out more and more. In addition to the uptick in air travel in recent weeks, travel agents are seeing increases in outdoor excursions, road trips and vacation rentals. "People are kind of adapting how they're wanting to get away, but it's innate in us to want to travel, so people are needing to accomplish that however they can," says Catherine Banks with Texas-based Legacy Travel.

Banks tells KTRH that while stateside travel is down, more people have been heading south. "The big winner so far is travel to Mexico," she says. "Mexico opened up early, they opened up without testing, and they actually just reduced their risk level."

Getting the travel industry back on its feet will almost certainly require more action from the federal government. The White House is now discussing another aid package for airlines, and Congress and the CDC are working on how to safely reopen the cruise industry. Banks is encouraged by this. "Cruise lines can't just stay down forever, these are lots of jobs (at stake) and people do want to cruise," she says. "Cruising does need to open back up, and I think they will."

Ultimately, Banks believes travelers will return if industries reopen and welcome them back. "(Travelers) want to see a thing actually open, whether it's cruising, whether it's Europe, whether it's a certain destination," she says. "They want to see it open before they're willing to commit to it."


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