Halfpoint Images | Moment | Getty Images
As news of several effective Covid-19 vaccines offers some light at the end of the tunnel that is 2020, will a beleaguered travel and tourism industry — one of the hardest hit by the pandemic — soon begin to recover?
Possibly, say sources, but they caution that travel may take years to fully rebound and, no matter the timing, will likely look different than it did pre-pandemic.
“The news of a potential vaccine does hold promise for travel in 2021,” said Julie Hall, spokeswoman for AAA. “But … travelers need to be focused on knowing the risks of traveling and exposure in the here and now.”
Brian O’Connell, analyst at InsuranceQuotes.com, takes an even more measured stance. “I’m just not bullish on travel for the first half of 2021 – even if a vaccine is mass produced in that timeframe,” he said. “Caution is the watchword, as the vaccine will take months to be fully distributed in the U.S. and abroad.”
Kayak.com CEO Steve Hafner said he thinks “people are taking more a wait-and-see approach … until one of these vaccines gets out there.”
More from Personal Finance:
Holiday trip reservations lag but last-minute bookings might help
Many would use stimulus for vacations but experts urge caution
Affluent travelers eager to get back to vacation business
However, the online travel agency did see a spike in searches — if not purchases — right after pharmaceutical giant Pfizer announced 95% efficacy for its Covid vaccine on Nov. 10. The next day, searches were up 27% compared to the week prior, he said, but settled into a “more modest” 6% weekly growth rate in the days that followed.
Still, Hafner said the increased searches are good sign.
“I’m very optimistic that once these vaccines get distributed, people’s perceptions around travel are going to change toward the positive,” he added.
“I’m hopeful it comes by the second quarter [of 2021], knock on wood,” Hafner said, of a rebound in travel. “If we’re really lucky, we’ll see it in the first quarter.”
A survey of 4,300 customers earlier this year by travel insurer Allianz found that 49% would travel again given a proven vaccine. Meanwhile, 42% said the go-ahead from public health officials would suffice.
“[The] promise of a highly effective vaccine is good news for the tremendous pent-up demand for travel, and should provide another reason for consumers to feel more confident booking trips for 2021,” said Daniel Durazo, director of marketing and communications at Allianz. He said he expected that luxury and experiential trips will be popular next year as consumers look to book so-called revenge travel in the wake of all of this year’s canceled plans.
Indeed, what travel expert Stella Shon at consumer finance site ValuePenguin called national “cabin fever” may spur some to book sooner rather than later, she said. “They’re ready to travel,” Shon said of vacationers. “It’s interesting that over half of Americans have still stayed in a hotel or