The journey is back – and fast!
As more Americans get vaccinated and restrictions lifted, everyone from airlines to travel agents to hotels is seeing a rapid return to pre-pandemic levels. But some changes may be here to stay even when the COVID-19 virus is no longer a threat.
âIt’s nice to be out of Texas for a little while,â said Chris Burt, of Austin, who recently passed through the Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International Airport. âMy wife came here for a business conference. I had never been to Cincinnati, so I thought I was going to come.
“I feel safe because I am vaccinated,” said Jonathan Bernstein as he collected his luggage after the Independence Day holiday. “We were in Virginia for a wedding, and it was a great event as we were able to come together in a larger crowd without a mask and celebrate a great occasion.”
According to a spokesperson for CVG, the airport recorded around 80 percent of the cases it saw at that time in 2019.
“There is a lot of pent-up demand,” spokeswoman Mindy Kershner said. “That, and new airlines and new routes.”
As air transport returns to normal, AAA reports that most Americans are choosing to get in the car this summer and fall. The automobile club said 95% of travelers are driving right now.
“Car travel remains the preferred method of travel,” said spokesperson Jenifer Moore. “There are a lot of people who want to go to the beach, so the east coast is very, very popular with our travelers here in the tri-state area as well as in the national parks.”
At first, expect to wear a mask depending on your mode of transportation. Federal mask warrants remain in force for airports, planes, rail systems and buses until September 13.
To prepare for any kind of trip you are planning, all experts recommend doing some research on your destination.
The vast majority of restrictions have been lifted in the United States. AAA maintains a nationwide search engine restrictions card.
The US border with Canada remains closed to tourists until at least July 21. But other countries vary widely.
CVG officials recommend checking international destinations directly with an airline, as restrictions change quickly. But, Delta currently has a interactive map highlighting the restrictions for each country.
Since early July 2021, most of Europe has been open to travelers who can prove a full vaccination or a negative PCR test. Many countries in South America and the Caribbean do the same, but some – like Antigua and Saint Lucia – still require proof of a negative test, even for fully vaccinated travelers.
No matter where you’re headed and your vaccine status, expect to show proof of a negative test to return to the United States. CDC says the test must take place no more than 3 days before your return.
Some things will last
Once you get to your destination, the changes you now notice may outlive the pandemic.
The Hilton hotel chain announced lasting changes to the way it works. They range from the continued expansion of its digital key technology to enable contactless check-in and check-out, to redesigned halls for integrated distancing and making spaces more flexible.
Hilton adds that he will focus on what he calls “transparency in cleaning“which means more visibility into housekeeping. But it also means flexibility in when and what needs to be cleaned, based on customer preferences.
“The hospitality industry is trying to get back to full occupancy without ever bringing back all of its workforce,” D. Taylor, international president of the union, said in a statement. “Housekeeping jobs are the backbone of the service economy, and their elimination means that many working families and especially communities of color may never recover.”
WCPO contacted Marriott, Hyatt and IHG to ask what changes might survive the pandemic, but had not received a response as of July 7.
It feels good to be back
The Independence Day holiday weekend brought a big comeback to travel. In fact, TSA figures show that it checked more passengers July 1 and 2 of this year as the same days in 2019.
AAA reports that its travel agents have seen a steady increase since January and are now receiving requests for help planning through 2022.
CVG continued to add flights to existing airlines and to integrate new airlines.
âA lot of airlines are getting creative with the destinations they serve and adding leisure routes,â Kershner said. “They decide where to put these planes and we have a lot to offer.”
For travelers like Jonathan Bernstein, this is good news.
âWe kind of made the turn,â he said. “I don’t think it’s over, but I think we’ve come a long way and can start to normalize things again.”
Once popular direct flights, such as the Delta flight to Paris, are expected to return in the fall.