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2021 Travel Trends - Activity Picks Up in April

There are some interesting indicators of growth in travel now that vaccinations are proliferating nationwide and the CDC is providing encouraging guidance on travel.  

Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
TSA is seeing significant growth in airport traffic with 1.5M+ million travelers going through security checkpoints at airports on April 8th vs. 105K at this time last year. The number of travelers has been certainly increasing since early-to-mid March but it is still approximately 35% percent less than it was in 2019 at 2.5M travelers.

Airlines Making Moves
United Airlines said it will start hiring pilots again - an executive in charge of flight operations said United would start by hiring the 300 pilots who either had a conditional job offer last year or whose start dates had been canceled because of the pandemic. Since September, nearly 1,000 United pilots have retired or taken voluntary leave. 

Delta Air Lines said it would sell middle seats on flights starting May 1 after more an year of leaving them empty to promote distancing. Other airlines had blocked middle seats early in the pandemic, but Delta held out the longest by several months and is the last of the four big U.S. airlines to remove the policy. CEO Ed Bastian said that a survey of those who flew Delta in 2019 found that nearly 65% expected to have received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine by May 1, which gave the airline “the assurance to offer customers the ability to choose any seat on our aircraft.”

Frontier Airlines went public in an IPO (started trading on the Nasdaq), becoming the last of the nation’s 10 largest airlines to go public. Frontier, which competes in the "ultra low cost" segment, says it is well positioned for the rebound because unlike larger airlines it does not rely on corporate or international travel. Frontier offers domestic flights to passengers for leisure trips, the type of travel leading the recovery.

Road Trips Are Back
New data from location intelligence provider Arrivalist’s Daily Travel Index, which tracks American road trips, shows that for the first time since the pandemic, road trip vacations have surpassed comparable 2019 levels during the week of April 2nd, 2021 - "Road Trips of 250 miles or more over Easter weekend in 2021 were 35% higher than long road trips during the same period of time in 2019." While the week over week data 2021 v. 2019 looks promising and the signs look good, year-over-year data still shows that road trip activity in 2021 is still 15% behind 2019. There is still room to make up.

Travel Jobs Returning
As reported in early April by the Department of Labor, U.S. Leisure & Hospitality sector gained 280K jobs in March and the industry’s unemployment rate is now 13.0% (vs. 916K jobs gained and 6.0% unemployment for the overall economy).

U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said in response: “The rise in Leisure and Hospitality jobs is a clear sign that an increase in travel and related activities corresponds to an increase in jobs, so maintaining employment growth will depend upon the broad restart of travel, particularly as vaccinations increase and health safeguards remain in place across the travel industry. It is important, however, to keep in mind that Leisure and Hospitality jobs account for almost 40% of all the U.S. jobs lost in 2020, so we are still way behind in terms of a recovery.”

Cities Seeing Tourism Rebounds
With vaccinations picking up, warmer weather and increased business reopenings, tourism is picking up in major US destinations: New York City, Miami, Los Angeles, Las Vegas, New Orleans

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