Large theme park crowds don't tell the whole story. New data says full recovery will take some time


Crowded theme parks don't mean the tourism industry is back on track - ADOBE
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  • Crowded theme parks don't mean the tourism industry is back on track

As the travel industry begins to climb out of the biggest slowdown in its history, a slew of recent studies gives us a better understanding of what the coming months will entail.

Even as the delta variant of coronavirus causes new alarm, there’s increasing evidence that people think the worst is now behind us. A study of nearly 1,500 Americans found seventy-one percent now feel safe flying, compared to just forty-eight percent in January. Three-quarters of respondents plan to travel this year, up from 58% in January. The study, conducted on behalf of tax firm IPX 1031, took place in late June, just as Fauci had identified the Delta variant as “a great threat.”

The study was part of a look at consumer sentiment for travel in the wake of the pandemic. Across the board, it showed increasing comfortability with and willingness to travel compared to responses in January.

Despite this positive outlook, the travel industry still has a long way to go before it can fully recover. The cruise industry, which is among the hardest-hit segments, is expected to pull in five times less revenue this year than in 2019, but it is thought to be double the $3.3 billion the sector saw last year.

While Florida’s theme parks are welcoming large crowds this summer, many travelers are still unable to visit due to international travel restrictions. In the first five months of 2021, the United Nations’ World Tourism Organization recorded 460 million fewer international travel arrivals than in 2019. Worldwide, January through May saw 85 percent fewer arrivals this year than in 2019 and 65 percent fewer than in 2020. Those numbers are slightly lower in the Americas, where 2021 has seen forty-seven percent fewer arrivals than during the same period in 2020.

UNWTO Secretary-General Zurab Pololikashvili believes vaccines are key to reviving the struggling travel industry.

“Accelerating the pace of vaccination worldwide, working on effective coordination and communication on ever changing travel restrictions while advancing digital tools to facilitate mobility will be critical to rebuild trust in travel and restart tourism,” Pololikashvili said.

Despite large crowds and busyairports, the travel industry still faces a long battle ahead of it. In the meantime, the push to vaccinate more people and slow the spread continues.
Even with vaccine numbers continuing to slowly tick higher, things won’t improve for the travel industry overnight. Across the nation, more than one in five hotel jobs lost during the pandemic won’t return by the end of the year. That’s according to a new report by the American Hotel & Lodging Association, which also warns that hotel room revenue is expected to be down $44 billion this year compared to 2019 numbers. Despite these difficult numbers, there are plenty of indications that the worst is over.

“We are encouraged by the pace of demand growth so far in 2021, not just for hotels, but for air travel, rental cars and alternative forms of lodging, as well,” explained Rachael Rothman, head of Hotels Research & Data Analytics for CBRE. “Clearly there is a pent-up desire to get back on the road, especially for leisure travel. Anecdotally, we are seeing early signs of improvement in group travel, but the overall pace of the recovery in group travel and corporate travel is less certain at this point.”

CBRE’s latest hotel research points to a 4.3 percent increase in average daily rates for U.S. hotels this year and an 11.4 percent rise next year. This comes after last year notched a 22.5 percent decline. Altogether things are improving, but CBRE doesn’t expect hotels to see a recovery in occupancy until 2025, with 2019 numbers not returning until the fall of 2024.

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