New research reveals that despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the collapse in aviation, many Americans are planning a last-minute return to the skies this Thanksgiving, travelling to be with their families at home or taking a break in the sunshine or on the slopes.
The COVID-19 crisis has decimated international air travel and badly damaged domestic air travel. In the past three weeks, we have seen the pace of bookings decelerate and that correlates with the third wave of the virus. However, there are a couple of highly resilient periods, Christmas and Thanksgiving, where bookings have not slowed down and are relatively much stronger than they are for the rest of the year. Flight tickets issued in the week commencing 8th November, for travel over the Thanksgiving period (departures from 19th – 25th November) surged to 74.5% of last year’s volumes.
In a ranking of major US domestic destinations this Thanksgiving (ie: destinations with at least 1.0% share of domestic flight bookings), many of the most resilient are family holiday hotspots. In order of resilience benchmarked against 2019, Fort Myers in Florida leads the list; as of 14th November, bookings for travel over the Thanksgiving period (departures from 19th – 25th November), were 11.9% behind last year’s levels.
It is followed by another sunshine destination, Tampa, where bookings are 14.2% behind. The next three most resilient places are popular for skiing, Salt Lake City Utah, 23.5% behind, Phoenix Arizona, 30.0% behind, which is driving distance from the Arizona Snow Bowl and Denver, Colorado, 32.1% behind. The next five cities in descending order of resilience are: Miami, 33.5% behind; Orlando, the home of several iconic theme parks, 33.9% behind; Kahului, 35.4% behind; Dallas, 38.6% behind; and Las Vegas, 40.6% behind.
Whilst hardly anybody is travelling on business, the encouraging news for the travel industry is that people don’t want to drop what they usually do for Thanksgiving and are keen to travel. As going abroad is much more of a hassle owing to COVID-19 travel restrictions; we are seeing a greater proportion of Thanksgiving bookings being domestic, 91% this year, compared to 79% last year. There is even room for a little more optimism, because with booking trends being increasingly last-minute, numbers will likely climb further this week.