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Hospitality Industry Expects a ‘Vaxication’ Turnaround

While the pandemic hit the hospitality industry hard, it expects a big rebound if newly vaccinated Americans over-compensate for vacations they lost out on in 2020.

NEW YORK – The pandemic rocked the hotel industry as more people stay at home – but the sector is hoping for a turnaround as more of the public gets vaccinated. Let the “vaxication” planning begin, as Bloomberg reporter Jen Murphy dubs it.

Some Americans are already planning celebratory vacations starting a few weeks after they get their final vaccine. Leah Smith, president of Tafari Travel, told Bloomberg she has already seen a 25% jump in travel inquiries since the first round of vaccinations became available.

“Pretty much weekly, I am getting emails from clients saying they just got their first vaccination and are ready to plan the next two years of travel,” Smith says. “It’s not uncommon to get up to four trip requests in one email.”

After a year without travel, many clients also discovered that they had a lot more money, and many are also upgrading their future trips, adds Craig Beal, owner of Travel Beyond, based in Minnesota.

Each day, more of the American public gets vaccinated and feels protected against COVID-19, and the travel rebound can’t come soon enough for an ailing travel industry. Hotel occupancy fell to the lowest on record at 24.5% last April (for comparison, occupancy averaged 66% in 2019).

The American Hotel and Lodging Association estimates that the pandemic eliminated more than 10 years of job growth in the hospitality sector – and the industry likely won’t make a full recovery until 2024, analysts estimate. But in 2021, the sector hopes to make bigger strides toward a rebound. Occupancy this year is expected to average 52.5%, and hotel room revenue is expected to increase by $25.9 billion, which is still 34% below pre-pandemic levels.

The hospitality industry hopes that vaccines free more people to travel again, but vacationers still need to be cautious, warns infectious disease doctors. Anthony Fauci, the president’s chief medical adviser and director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned against planning post-vaccination travels too soon.

However, many vacationers are planning destinations centered around outdoor settings and socially distanced activities, travel agents say.

“People want to start out with remote places, where they can be outside most of the time,” Brooke Lavery, a partner at Local Foreigner, a high-end travel firm, says. “They’re still not ready to return to busy resorts.”

Source: “Celebratory ‘Vaxications’ Are Giving the Travel Industry a Boost,” Bloomberg (March 7, 2021) and “AHLA’s State of the Hotel Industry 2021,” American Hotel & Lodging Association (Jan. 21, 2021

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