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National Plan for Vacation Day is Jan. 26, 2021. Unsurprisingly, it looks vastly different this year than ever before.
The annual event, which is meant to encourage U.S. travelers to plan their vacations at the start of a new year, hopes to combat the problem of leaving unused paid time off (PTO) on the table once the year comes to a close.However, with the travel industry continuing to reel from the COVID-19 pandemic, the day has “taken on a special meaning,” said Roger Dow, president and CEO of U.S. Travel Association, during a Jan. 22 press call.
So what might vacations look like during a year that, in its first month, has seen the inauguration of a new U.S. president; updates to testing requirements for inbound travelers; an almost nonexistent international and corporate travel landscape; ever-changing local quarantine recommendations; and the continuation of certain travel bans paired with the removal of others?
Travel research firm Destination Analysts surveyed some 1,200 PTO-earning Americans who worked at least 20 hours per week in 2020 about their desires for travel in 2021.
Here’s what the firm’s latest Coronavirus Travel Sentiment Index Report, released Jan. 18, shows us about 2021 travel plans.
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Now’s the ideal time to book travel.The average PTO-earning American used only 67% of the days they earned in 2020, according to Erin Francis-Cummings, president and CEO of Destination Analysts, with 63% of respondents stating they “agree” or “strongly agree” with the statement, “I desperately need a vacation in 2021.”
Indeed, the travel industry is primed to see a massive increase in bookings. Eighty-four percent of those surveyed are planning travel for the next six months, with the highest spike of travel predicted to take place in June and July, another reason U.S. Travel’s Dow is encouraging advisors and clients to book early.
“In early summer, everyone is going to be booking at the same time; the entire country will be packing two years of vacation demand into two months,” he said. “Imagine what that will do to flight and hotel availability."
The entire country will be packing two years of vacation demand into two months. Imagine what that will do to flight and hotel availability.
Another reason to book 2021 trips now? A current surge of favorable offers and flexible travel policies that won’t last forever.
“Vacation-planners are going to be rewarded this year more than ever before,” Dow said. “Not only will planners reap the significant personal benefits of looking forward to their next travel experience, but they will find some of the friendliest booking conditions we have seen in a very long time.”
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A vaccine will be the No. 1 factor in increasing a traveler’s radius in 2021.Although Americans still report feeling safest traveling in their cars, the distance consumers are willing to travel will be largely affected by vaccine distribution, with 53% of American workers willing to use PTO to vacation away from home once a vaccine is available and accessible.
“I want to encourage everyone to take the vaccine when it’s available,” Dow said. “The sooner we get America vaccinated, the more quickly we are going to get confidence built.”
“We asked PTO-earning Americans to rank what was going to make them feel safest traveling, and vaccines will be the clear winner above masking, testing and social distancing,” she said. “That rollout is critical to Americans feeling safe.”
International travel is predicted to return mid-year.Last year saw a 76% dip in international travel, from 79 million visitors in 2019 to 19 million in 2020, (with most of these arrivals coming in the first quarter of the year, just prior to the pandemic). That sector is anticipated to return in mid-2021.
Although U.S. Travel commends the implementation of the new testing requirements for inbound U.S. air travelers, the organization is urging for the removal of non-enforceable quarantines that they view as ineffective, a threat to the current economic environment and a deterrent to travel.
On the domestic front, the organization also opposes implementing testing requirements at the same level as international air travel, along with vaccination requirements for travel within the U.S.
Americans should continue to keep health and safety in mind throughout the year.Dow advises Americans not to succumb to “pandemic fatigue” or become complacent while in what he calls “the home stretch” of the pandemic.
Let’s get this thing behind us ... If we all do our part, getting back to normal will come much sooner.
“Let’s get this thing behind us,” he said. “For now, we have to wear our masks, practice good hygiene, distancing, and most importantly, stay home if [we’re] not feeling well. If we all do our part, getting back to normal will come much sooner.”
The DetailsDestination Analystswww.destinationanalysts.com
U.S. Travel Associationwww.ustravel.org