Inflation dampens summer travel plans, study finds

After two years in which many travelers stayed home, 2022 was supposed to be the year of Big Travel, when travel was ticked off bucket lists and the word “staycation” was retired forever.

Then came rising COVID-19 numbers in the spring, record gasoline prices, rapidly escalating airfares — and the war in Ukraine. Moreover, the chaos of airline cancellations and delays from last year persists. For some people, it’s made the idea of ​​staying closer to home — whether it’s really staying in their own city or sticking to scaled-down plans — more appealing. And suddenly, American travelers are once again rushing to book hotels, restaurants and local activities.

Milan Jones and his girlfriend, Catherine Wilson, are among them. In 2020 and 2021, the couple stuck to day trips to natural sites, museums and spas near their home in Georgia. This spring, they had planned to travel to the Maldives for their first explosive trip in over two years.

Then came the constant feelings of uncertainty – what if they got sick overseas, didn’t the world seem too unstable?

No more one-day flight to this remote archipelago. The new plan: a week at a local spa to take a mental and physical break from the past two years of accumulated stress.

“We would only decide to go on a major vacation in the future if we were confident it was carefully planned and safe,” said Jones, 24, a content writer and editor. “We probably wouldn’t plan anything more than three months in advance, and the more isolated the area we are traveling in, the more at peace we would feel going there.” Their priorities: a stable region and a place with less risk of a coronavirus epidemic.

They are not the only ones to rethink things.

An April study by personal finance site Bankrate found that 69% of American adults who say they are taking a vacation this summer plan to change their plans due to inflation, with 25% traveling shorter distances and 23 % planning less costly activities. Among those planning to take time off, a staycation was the second most popular option, behind the beach.

Another May report by TripAdvisor, the travel rating site, found that 74% of US travelers were “extremely concerned” about inflation; 32% planned to take shorter trips this summer and 31% planned to travel closer to home.

While that doesn’t mean travel is axed altogether, it does reflect that, for the third summer in a row, staycations are set to be a big part of the mix, and ‘revenge travel’ – a full trip to do for lost time. — it may have to wait a little longer, said Amir Eylon, president and CEO of Longwoods International, a travel market research consultancy in Columbus, Ohio.

An upbeat May report from the Mastercard Economics Institute found that in the first quarter of 2022, Americans were booking shorter domestic and international flights above 2019 levels by about 25%, although long-haul flights were still depressed. But, the report warns, “As the headwinds of pent-up COVID-related demand drive the travel recovery forward, the headwinds of inflation, supply chain constraints, geopolitical uncertainties and rising COVID infection also shape 2022”.

The impact of rising prices could be uneven, according to the report: “More price-sensitive travelers may stay closer to home, while less price-sensitive travelers, who are more likely to have more excess savings, may be less concerned about higher prices and wanderlust. »

Domestic hotel bookings up

For those not jumping on long-distance flights, the winners seem to be nearby vacation spots, where hotels and short-term rentals book up. Airbnb bookings in the United States from people staying in their own area increased 65% in the first quarter of 2022 compared to the first quarter of 2019, said Airbnb spokesperson Haven Thorn.

“The demand for domestic leisure travel is higher than it has ever been post-pandemic,” said Emily Seltzer, marketing manager for River House at Odette’s, a small luxury hotel in New Hope, New Hope. Pennsylvania, which draws most of its customers from Philadelphia and New York. “Rather than having to fly, customers are more likely to jump in their car and start enjoying their vacation.”

Amanda Arling, president of The Whaler’s Inn, a luxury hotel in downtown Mystic, Connecticut, said the hotel was filling up quickly for the summer, much faster than in previous years. Weekends are already nearly sold out until Labor Day, and she said she’s also starting to see midweek business picking up. Arling estimated that 20% of bookings are staying Connecticut and Rhode Islanders.

“Inland travel and staycations seem to satisfy a desire to explore new places,” she said.

“Staycations has opened up a new offering for the travel industry, and going forward, we’ll see an increase in the industry to offer staycations in major metropolitan areas,” said Peter Vlitas, executive vice president of relationships. with partners for Internova Travel Group, which represents more than 70,000 travel consultants worldwide.

Some have already started. Virgin Hotels in Chicago is offering up to 30% off hotel stays for Illinois residents, for example.

Amy Lyle, 51, an author, and her husband, Peter Lyle, 56, a health systems consultant, who live near Atlanta, are planning what could be their third year of sojourn. Their planned first trip, to the Amalfi Coast, was booked to celebrate their 10th wedding anniversary in April 2020.

Lyle canceled it when international travel all but ceased at the start of the pandemic. Instead, the couple took a 30-minute vacation north of their home, enjoying the weather on Lake Lanier.

Then, in April 2021, they tried again, booking vacations with friends in Greece, Egypt and Israel. But in March, a month before they left, the travel agent informed them that Israel had been cut from the itinerary due to an upsurge in violence there.

The Lyles returned to the lake.

They have already canceled a trip this year, to Rome and Nice, due to concerns over the war in Ukraine. But they hope to travel to Greece this month to finally celebrate their 10th anniversary. If that is canceled, they will settle for a stay in Darien, Georgia, a small fishing village on the coast.

“I’m the author of ‘The Book of Failures,’ so canceling three vacations to Europe is the story of my life,” Lyle said.

Meaghan Thomas, 29, of Louisville, Kentucky, will have a vacation after canceling her May trip to London, which she had planned more than a year ago.

“We were hoping COVID would be simmering by then,” said Thomas, who canceled the trip in April after numbers there spiked in March. Instead, she’ll take a road trip to visit a friend in Asheville, North Carolina.

Thomas owns an organic spice business and more upsetting for her than the cancellation of her trip to the UK is the further postponement of her business trip, which was planned this year for Tunisia, India and Sri Lanka, to meet spice producers.

“I’m really hoping for a trip at the end of the summer, but my confidence in flying and protecting myself from COVID has dropped significantly,” she said.

Wherever you go, it’s a vacation

But for many people, even a second-best vacation is better than no vacation, and they’re just grateful to leave home, said Brian Hoyt, head of global communications and industry affairs for TripAdvisor.

“Travellers overwhelmingly said they’ve been stuck at home for 24 months and will be getting out this summer,” Hoyt said, referring to the May report.

And the staycation isn’t really that bad. Especially, some travelers say, when you factor in things like seemingly ubiquitous flight delays and cancellations, long flights that may no longer require masks, and the COVID regulations that come with international travel, like having to test negative. to return to the United States.

Heather Fremling, 55, an independent financial consultant in Merritt Island, Florida, had traveled her entire life for work, family and pleasure. But during the pandemic, when Fremling drove across the country to help her older parents, she realized how much less stress she felt driving than flying.

“I remembered, during quite a bad time, the freedom and happiness of being in control of your own journey,” she said.

Now Fremling is sticking to staycations, relying on resort passes and same-day hotel bookings to enjoy luxury destinations without the stress and hassle of actual travel.

Steve Schwab, 49, CEO of Casago, a vacation rental company, said he usually travels to a new location each summer, but this year, with rising gas prices and inflation, he couldn’t justify the cost. So he and his family are staying in Scottsdale, Arizona, where they live, for a week.

“We spent time writing down our top favorite activities,” Schwab said. “And just listing them and thinking about what we want to do made me a lot more excited than I had been. Sometimes all it takes is a little planning for you get excited about what awaits you.

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

Comments are closed.