More people could be packing their bags for Florida vacations long-delayed by COVID-19 restrictions, indicating the U.S. may indeed be inching closer to pre-pandemic normalcy, data shows.
Throughout March, Florida destinations saw a surge in hotel and flight bookings for summer travel, according to research from Adara, a consumer data analysis company. And Adara is forecasting another sharp surge is on the way.
The estimates could mean the nation is a step closer to President Joe Biden’s goal of returning to normal by mid-Summer.
“By July the 4th, there’s a good chance you, your families and friends, will be able to get together in your backyard or in your neighborhood and have a cookout or a barbecue and celebrate Independence Day,” Biden said during a March speech.
As more people continue to get vaccinated, Florida, one of the nation’s top vacation destinations, stands to gain from a rebound in the travel industry.
“We expect to continue to see strong leisure travel demand for Florida throughout the summer, especially now that all adults are eligible for vaccinations,” said Chelsea McCready, director of hospitality market analytics at CoStar Group. “The desire to go to the beach doesn’t seem to be waning.”
As of April 30, more than 8.7 million Floridians have received at least one dose of the vaccine — nearly 41% of the state’s population.
In early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said fully vaccinated people can travel safely within the U.S. without having to get tested beforehand.
International travel can pose risks for contracting COVID-19 variants even for fully-vaccinated people, the CDC said. The guidelines also still recommend wearing a mask during travel, staying six feet from crowds and washing your hands often travel abroad and domestically.
The Adara data also shows flights bookings to Florida are much higher than hotel bookings, signaling that airports in Florida are expected to become busy in the next few months.
“We’re optimistic recent industry trends indicate a sustained travel recovery that will help fast-track FLL back pre-COVID-19 performance levels or higher,” said Mark E. Gale, CEO of Aviation Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
But while flights travel appears to be on the upswing, hotel bookings have a ways to go before they reach prepandemic levels, Adara data shows. Summer hotel bookings in Florida’s major destinations are still still much lower than they were at this time in 2019.
“We’ll have to wait and see whether conventions and business meetings happen in person at that time, and whether convention attendance rises to the same levels as it did pre-pandemic,” said McCready.