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Ohio could see COVID-19 'revenge spending' on travel
Springfield News-Sun - 4/5/2021
Apr. 5—Leisure travel is making a comeback in Ohio as residents feel increasingly confident that the coronavirus and related public health restrictions won't spoil their plans and trips.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Friday issued new guidance that says fully vaccinated people can travel domestically without needing to be tested for the coronavirus or going into quarantine after.
Pent-up travel demand and rapid growth in vaccinations means many people expect to hit the road in coming months for short getaways and longer vacations.
Some industry groups predict there could be a wave of "revenge spending" from consumers who have been cooped up and who were forced to cancel vacations and other much-anticipated life events because of COVID-19.
"We've heard the term 'revenge spending,'" said Micki Dudas, director of leisure travel sales with AAA Miami Valley. "I missed my Mother's Day, I missed my Fourth of July celebration ... They missed a lot of important events."
AAA has seen increased travel requests and bookings as more attractions and popular activities and destinations open back up and people generally feel more confident making plans, Dudas said.
Some Ohioans may splurge on trips, attractions and accommodations more than they would in a normal year because they did not travel at all in the last year and they have extra money in their travel budgets, Dudas said.
Many people want to travel and also see and reconnect with family and friends, so they are planning trips that include other loved ones, she said.
Advanced planning and reservations are important because pent-up demand may exceed booking availability, Dudas said.
About 87% of U.S. travelers have travel plans in the next six months, which is the highest level since March 2020, according to a recent study from Longwoods International.
CDC's new guidance says domestic travelers don't have to worry about COVID-19 tests or quarantining but they should still wear masks, socially distance and avoid crowds.
Hotels and motels across Ohio expect to see more bookings and welcome more travelers this year, which is good news since many operators could not afford to have another spring and summer like last year, said Joe Savarise, executive director of the Ohio Hotel & Lodging Association.
Ohio's lodging providers had an occupancy rate of just 33.3% during the week of Memorial Day in 2020, which compared to 62.2% in 2019, Savarise said.
Ohio's hotel occupancy rate more recently was about 44.5%, he said, and most of the demand has been for weekend stays, related to the leisure market.
"There is no doubt hotel and lodging properties are seeing an increase in bookings, and we forecast that trend will continue into the summer," Savarise said. "Right now, leisure and discretionary travel is leading the way."
Missy Kozee, 47, of Centerville, says she recently returned from a trip to South Carolina with her husband, daughter and a friend. She was vaccinated a couple of weeks ago and her daughter, Jordyn, received her first shot on Friday at a Kettering Health Network vaccination clinic.
Kozee said she felt comfortable traveling because they stayed with family and they weren't at the beach or around large groups of other people.
"I don't know that I would have felt safe doing that," she said.
Residents and other people interviewed by this news outlet said they are still not ready to fly.
But the Dayton International Airport and airports across the nation have seen a steady uptick in passengers going through TSA, and leisure travel currently is a significant share of local foot traffic, said Linda Hughes, Dayton's air service manager.
Airport passenger bookings in March and April are trending below the U.S. average, she said, but May is slightly above average and June booking performance looks strong.
Dayton aviation director Gil Turner said he hopes there will be a significant increase in air travel at the Dayton airport by the fall.
However, he said air traffic volumes will not climb back to pre-COVID levels until business travel returns.
"We remind our community that airlines will follow demand," he said. "For a strong community we must buy local, and for a strong airport we must fly local."
Allegiant airlines, which offers four nonstop flights from Dayton to Florida, has found increasingly positive sentiment from its customers in weekly surveys, said Sonya Padgett, an Allegiant spokesperson.
Customers have indicated they are likely to book travel this spring or summer, she said.
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