The State of U.S Economic Affairs
The combined impact of mass vaccination rollout and federal stimulus checks gave way for a surge in consumer spending and the U.S economy grew 6.4% in the first quarter of 2021, its fastest GDP growth in nearly four decades. Economic forecasters have always expected the pandemic to be followed by a period of strong growth as businesses reopen and Americans get back to normal. However, with surging demand comes inflation, something that the economy will not be able to avoid as it has for more than two decades. Economists now expect the second quarter to grow at a pace of 10% as government-fueled stimulus checks show that money has indeed made its way back to the economy. The unemployment rate is still high and surveys done indicate that pay increases and other benefits are essential to luring workers back. Since the pandemic employees are leaving or switching jobs by the millions as the pandemic has changed the mindset of many people who are searching for more flexibility, money, and happiness. The pandemic has workers rethinking how to value and spend their time. Eventually, this economic boom will plateau and many believe that will be determined by when the American Jobs plan and infrastructure bill get approved and underway.
Current U.S Travel Trends
Across the country, this past 4th of July weekend travelers everywhere boarded planes, trains, and automobiles and headed somewhere for the holiday weekend. The TSA (Transportation Security Administration) reported screening 2.1 million people nationwide Friday as the weekend got underway. Air travel is setting new records and continuing to soar past pre-pandemic levels as summer travel season is now in full swing. As planes are nearly full flying across the country, air travel is booming. So, as the nation and the world reopen you may start to see fewer travel deals as pent-up demand starts affecting those great air ticket deals we saw earlier in the year. As more people get vaccinated and comfortable traveling again the pent-up demand is also driving up rates for hotel rooms and vacation rentals. Nevertheless, summer plans are holding strong despite Americans reporting unsatisfactory travel experiences in recent months feeling the travel industry labor shortage. Recent surveys continue to indicate that Americans are still feeling more enthusiastic about travel than ever before regardless of extra testing requirements, following of new protocols, or any other additional barriers to travel that have come along due to the effects of the pandemic.
Europe Welcomes Back American Travelers
With the lifting of the U.S travel ban, a vast majority of European countries are now open ending a 15-month ban on travel from the U.S due to the pandemic. Americans can travel to Europe however, getting around can get a bit complicated. Each country within the EU makes its own border decisions regarding entry requirements, vaccination requirements, PCR or antigen testing, and whether quarantine is mandatory. It’s imperative that travelers also verify public health measures, openings, and closings of where they may be headed throughout Europe. Also, keep in mind that currently there are fewer flights from the U.S than before the pandemic as airlines have had to launch new routes to specific countries as they reopen their borders.
Americans Head South to the Caribbean
With Caribbean travel restrictions easing, several other islands have reopened to international tourism and others are now adopting a two-track entry system for vaccinated and unvaccinated travelers. The Caribbean Tourism Organization is projecting a 20% increase in tourism arrivals in 2021 for the region. This is welcome news for many of the islands whose nations and economies rely mainly on tourism. The Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) estimates that full recovery to the 31.3 visitors recorded in 2019 will occur between 2022 to 2024. Currently, most of the islands are listed at a level 3 or 4 on the U.S State departments travel advisory scale and travelers are asked to take the proper precautions and follow local regulations.
Cruise Tourism Slowly Resumes
Last year, the CDC issued a conditional sailing order that states that cruise lines should take a phased approach when restarting their sailing services. The order states that cruise lines must satisfy certain safety regulations and provide a healthy environment for all aboard. In early March, the CDC began approving select cruise ships for limited sailings based on their compliance set forth in the Conditional Sailing Order. Celebrity Cruises, Carnival Cruise Line, Crystal Cruises, and many more have already announced their new cruising dates. Travelers are encouraged to review safety procedures and mandatory covid-19 policies before boarding.
Support Local Tourism Economies
I encourage you to be a tourist in your own hometown because your local community needs the business too. For those who are sticking to domestic trips this summer, there are various ways that tourism can support local economies. Dine at your local restaurants, support smaller (non-branded) hotels, engage with small businesses on social media and book directly on their own website for accommodations, tours, experiences, or excursions. Larger cities such as Los Angeles, New York, and New Orleans are even making vaccines available to locals and residents alike in order to draw in more visitors to specific areas to support the surrounding local tourism economies.
Travel Making a Big Comeback Globally
With every passing day, travel is making a big comeback as more and more people all over the world want to get back to normal and explore the world again. Americans and Europeans all want to head to beach destinations, warm climates and look forward to wide-open spaces. Given how long people have been closed up at home it’s no surprise everyone is gravitating to the outdoors and warm beach destinations. Surely places that will help restore mental and physical wellbeing will be a summer favorite.
Where are you traveling to this summer?