Prepare for crowded roads, busy airports, and longer queues than last year at gas stations, roadside restaurants and other travel stops. AAA predicts a near return to pre-pandemic travel levels during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The travel services company predicts that 53.4 million Americans will travel during the holidays, according to a press release. This is a 13% increase from 2020, which was hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic and will bring the total travel volume to less than 5% in 2019, before the pandemic.
Air transport saw the biggest rebound, with AAA expecting an 80% increase from last year.
“Travel for Thanksgiving will be very different from last year,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president of AAA Travel. “Now that borders are open and new health and safety guidelines are in place, travel is once again at the top of the list for Americans who are ready to reunite with loved ones for the holidays. “
Travel will be even more congested and complicated due to the opening of US borders to fully vaccinated global travelers.
Travel brands are trying to capitalize
Booking Holdings (NASDAQ: BKNG) The Priceline.com brand hopes to capture some of that rebounding traffic with a Black Friday week of sales of hotel rooms, rental cars, flights, cruises, and more.
From Black Friday until Cyber Monday, Priceline will offer 10% off its express offers site-wide, while it will also offer “flash” sales throughout the weekend of vacation.
“With travel demand rebounding and in some cases exceeding 2019 levels, we want our customers to feel confident knowing they got the best travel deal. “Priceline CEO Brett Keller said in a press release.
Airbnb (NASDAQ: ABNB) has decided to give in to customer demand and offer gift certificates this holiday season.
The company has launched digital gift cards, which can be delivered by email or text message, in eight countries: US, UK, Australia, Canada, Germany, Spain , Italy and France.
Like AAA, Airbnb expects a busy holiday season and saw a 40% increase in nights booked during Thanksgiving compared to 2019.
Travel sales will not be limited to accommodation and airline tickets. Royal Caribbean (NYSE: RCL) has holiday sales from Nov. 24-30, according to the RoyalCaribbean blog (which is not affiliated with the company).
Selling prices can vary considerably depending on the navigation, but the base offer is $ 75 off for rooms with interior and ocean views, $ 100 for balconies and $ 200 for suites. on cruises of five nights or less.
Guests who booked six nights or longer trips will save $ 100 on interior and ocean view rooms, $ 150 on balconies, and $ 400 on suites.
The company also has its standard Black Friday sale where it offers discounted prices on onboard amenities such as drink packages, shore excursions and specialty restaurants.
Customers who have already booked a cruise may still benefit from savings, according to blog owner Matt Hochberg. It’s a bit of a cumbersome process where the customer has to check if the price has gone down and then has to ask for the lower rate.
“The easiest method to see if there is a price drop is to go to the Royal Caribbean website and do a mock reservation,” Hochberg wrote.
In some cases customers will receive a discount while in others an onboard credit will be issued.
The journey is back
While travel may not eclipse pre-pandemic levels, it has clearly recovered although capacity remains limited in some areas.
Walt Disney (NYSE: DIS), for example, still uses a reservation system at its Disney World theme parks in Florida, at least in part, because it has maintained some capacity constraints.
The company has yet to comment on exactly what these limitations are.
Disney has also halted sales of most annual passes at its Florida parks, likely because pass holder reservations are largely fully booked until the end of the year.
The US Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) also expects a near return to normal between Friday, November 19 and Sunday, November 28. It expects to screen “about 20 million passengers over the Thanksgiving holiday,” according to a press release.
Typically, the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday following are the busiest travel days for people who fly, according to the TSA. The Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2019 set a record for passengers screened at nearly 2.9 million
“We anticipate that travel could be very close to pre-pandemic levels this vacation, and we are staffed and prepared for vacation travelers,” TSA administrator David Pekoske said in the press release. . “With overall immunization rates improving nationwide and greater confidence in healthy travel, there will be more people traveling, so plan ahead, stay alert and be kind. “