Thanksgiving week travel expected to be almost as busy as pre-pandemic levels
DALLAS — More than 60 million Americans will travel as a result of the social distancing measures set by the government, but the country’s holiday travel season will likely not match the numbers of a year ago.
Travel experts agree that travel volumes will most likely be a bit lower than normal. But there are signs that the travel restrictions on places like China, South Korea and Japan and the closure of nonessential businesses on public transportation are helping to stem the spread of the virus.
Experts expect that Americans will make up about a quarter of the nation’s travel for the holiday travel season, an increase of nearly 15 percent compared to a year ago.
“We’re expecting most people to use their own two feet over the next six months,” said Rick Seaney, president of the Travel Leaders Association, a trade group that represents the nation’s business travel industry. “They’ll be thinking holistically about travel, their business and their communities, rather than thinking about just getting back home from work and how to get there.”
Seaney said that will be of tremendous benefit as the nation becomes increasingly dependent on government-issued travel waivers, such as the air travel waiver granted to Americans who can’t get to Italy and who are unable to self-isolate. That travel waiver is being extended in the two weeks before the Thanksgiving travel period, and travelers may need to get an additional waiver in October to get from the United States to the United Kingdom.
The air travel waiver affects travelers from all 50 states, but because of the virus, most of the waiver winners were from the Bay Area, which accounts for more than a third of the country’s air travel. Bay Area residents can’t fly to or from other states for two weeks before the beginning of the travel period or for an additional three weeks in October.
This is the first time in more than a decade that there is a significant increase in the number of U.S. travelers who will be staying home during the Thanksgiving travel period, which typically sees a reduction in air travel.
“We think the virus is changing the travel patterns that already exist,” said Seaney, who noted that most Americans now have to stay home anyway because they are worried about getting sick.
The Travel Leaders Association did not have an official projection