Hotels are hoping for an upswing in travel and want you to know your experience will be safer, and cleaner, during the coronavirus pandemic.
For a travel industry looking for a glimmer of hope, the latest holiday-week statistics offer some encouragement, with hotels seeing an uptick in room occupancy rates and airlines filling more seats.
The number of people passing through Transportation Security Administration airport checkpoints surpassed 300,000 for the first time in almost two months, it reported on its website. Numbers spiked on Thursday, May 21, and Friday, May 22, leading up to the three-day weekend and again on Monday.
For the week ending May 23, tracking firm STR found that hotel occupancy in the U.S. averaged 35.4%, up by 32.4% from the previous week – though still down by about half from the comparable week in 2019.
“The steady climb in national occupancy continued, and to no surprise, the highest levels were recorded on Friday and Saturday ahead of Memorial Day,” said Jan Freitag, STR’s senior vice president of lodging insights, in a statement.
She said occupancy gains were strong in warm-weather destinations in the South, including Daytona Beach and the Florida Panhandle, as well as Mobile, Alabama and Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Among the top 25 travel destinations, four registered occupancy levels above 40%. They were New York; Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida; Norfolk/Virginia Beach, Virginia; and Phoenix.
While any rise was encouraging, the travel industry still has a long way to climb before it can claim a solid rebound. TSA’s count of 318,449 people passing through checkpoints on May 21 came in above 300,000 for the first time since March 23, but is still paltry compared to almost 2.7 million on that same day a year ago. And with the holiday weekend over, the numbers have settled back into the mid-200,000s.
“We continue to see recovery, and load factor over Memorial Day weekend was 45%. While much lower than normal, this is clear progress from April when the average load factor was less than 20%,” said JetBlue Airways in a statement to USA TODAY.
American Airlines spokesman Ross Feinstein said Friday marked the highest passenger counts since March 21, though the airline is still only operating 7,388 flights fewer than a third of the number of flights it had over the comparable period a year ago.
Hotels have not only seen dramatically lower occupancy rates due to the pandemic, but lower room rates as well. Room rates averaged $80.92, down almost 40% from a year ago, STR said. Some travel destinations continue to drag: Orlando, Florida, and Boston had occupancy levels among the top 25 markets, both short of 23%, and Oahu, Hawaii, was at 12.7%, according to STR.
Travel, however, may pick up as more vacation-oriented cities reopen. Walt Disney World in Orlando, for instance, has announced a July 11 opening. And some major Las Vegas hotel resorts, including the Wynn Las Vegas and Caesars Palace, plan to reopen June 4.
Many popular East Coast beach resort destinations have been opening as well. Rehoboth, Delaware, and Ocean City, Maryland, are among the towns where the beaches are again welcoming swimmers, through with restrictions in many cases like social distancing. Many Florida beaches are back.
Atlantic beach towns: brace for summer vacationers – but know it won’t be the same
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