“Hot vax summer” ushered in a hopeful phase of the pandemic, with increases in weddings, family vacations, and other opportunities for travel and socialization. But we’ve also seen a rise in COVID-19 cases and concerns about contagious viral coronavirus variants like delta and mu.
Many cities, states, and countries have issued new rules and requirements for residents and visitors, while companies have delayed office reopening dates. Still, data supports the effectiveness of vaccinations in preventing severe illness and hospitalization due to COVID-19.
We officially enter the fall season next week, and many of us have made travel plans or hope to soon. But what does the variant situation mean for the state of travel? HuffPost asked experts to break down the trends they’re seeing right now and predictions for how the journey will look in the coming months. Read on for their insights.
Travel demand is already softening.
“Concerns over the delta variant are already affecting fall travel,” Willis Orlando, member operations specialist at Scott’s Cheap Flights, told HuffPost. “All summer long, there was steady momentum towards a return to normal-ish demand for travel, particularly domestically. But in the last couple of months, this momentum has sputtered out.”
He noted that flight search volume on the site briefly reached 2019 levels in late June but is now down about 35% from two years ago. “When we polled a sample of our two million+ members about travel attitudes, 74% said Delta had affected their travel plans, with 35% saying they weren’t planning on traveling until 2022,” Orlando said.
International trips will be less popular.
“The vast majority of travel is still domestic, as travelers remain leery of jaunting too far from home,” said Val Anthony, lead research analyst at Tripadvisor. “This August, 84% of travel booked by Americans on Tripadvisor was domestic, with just 16% international.”
When Americans travel internationally, they need proof of a negative coronavirus test to reenter the United States. Brian Kelly, founder and CEO of The Points Guy, believes the rise of variants has made a more significant consideration for travelers than earlier this summer.
“Consumers are seeing that even vaccinated people can get the virus, which, while you can avoid hospitalization in most cases, people still don’t want to get stuck abroad in a foreign country and have to extend their trip by weeks and incur thousands in costs,” he explained.