AAA predicts holiday travel surge reach pre-pandemic levels

Posted 11/16/21

The American Automobile Association of Arizona’s recent 2021 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast is predicting a surge of travelers expected to “jam-pack” the roads and airports …

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AAA predicts holiday travel surge reach pre-pandemic levels


The American Automobile Association of Arizona’s recent 2021 Thanksgiving Holiday Travel Forecast is predicting a surge of travelers expected to “jam-pack” the roads and airports this holiday season.

An estimated 53.4 million travelers are expected for the Thanksgiving holiday, a 13% increase from 2020 and the most outstanding rise since 2005.

There is no doubt that the travel industry is recovering from its lowest point during the pandemic, and travelers are ready to take off. Travel appeared to be returning to normal this summer, but with ever-changing restrictions, that may not be the case. It was expected that travel would slow again as we enter the holiday season, however, many travelers are determined to continue their vacations.

As a result, travel volumes will be within 5% of pre-pandemic levels and air travel would be recovering from the 80% decline it experienced last year, according to a AAA press release.

“Our world is ready and starting to get their feet wet again in travel.” said Lee Ann Howe, founder/president of Affluent Passport travel company, “Most U.S. travelers have stayed close to home for most of 2021 but now are booking International trips for 2022. We have even seen a huge influx of travelers to Arizona.”

The United States has also begun to ease many COVID-19 restrictions, such as opening its borders. In order to prepare for travel during this time, AAA wants people to know that this will impact roads and airports.

“I’ll be interested to see what sort of travel increase we see now that international travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada, Mexico, and 33 other countries have been lifted. It has been about 21 months without international travel to the U.S., and it just happens to be coming back in time for the Thanksgiving holiday,” said Brice Erausquin, Visit Phoenix destination research analyst.

At Sky Harbor International Airport, experts predict the Thanksgiving travel season will see pre-pandemic levels. (Independent Newsmedia/Arianna Grainey)

In a survey of over 5,000 travelers conducted by Evolve, the vacation rental site, results found that 32% of travelers did not consider Delta’s variant in their travel plans at all, and 46.5% did not plan to cancel.

The most popular destination for travelers in the U.S. will be Orlando, Florida, followed by Anaheim, California. Phoenix comes in at No. 4 on the Top 5 list, behind Dallas, Texas (No. 3) and Honolulu, Hawaii (No. 5).

According to SRT, Inc. hospitality data, in September 2021 the hotel demand for the Phoenix-metro area increased 1.7% over the same time in 2019 and set a record for the highest demand in September.

“I would suggest to anyone traveling to make sure they look at what the pandemic-related rules and restrictions are for wherever they’re planning to travel,” said Erausquin, “I tracked a lot of the restrictions throughout the pandemic, and as we’ve all come to learn, they continue to change. Restrictions could be placed by the destinations, airlines, hotels, and entertainment venues, and it will be important for all travelers to check with these outlets before arriving at their destination.”

COVID-19 reports may indicate an increase in people staying home, while others may take notice of the progress in vaccinations and decide to travel at the last minute.

The AAA suggests working with a travel adviser to plan a vacation that meets your needs and comfort level during this holiday season.

“I highly suggest planning ahead especially if you need to keep to a schedule,” said Howe, “Each hotel is different in they all are having service issues due to short staff. Airlines are struggling as well with staff, be prepared for changes or delays. Book your air with your travel advisor as we will know right away most times before you do of a flight situation and will already have other flight options for you. I would begin booking your 2022 travel now with your travel advisor as we are seeing an explosion of bookings for next year globally.”

Editor’s Note: Ariana Gonzalez is a student reporter at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.


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