The Unlikely US Destinations Attracting Tourists in a Post-Covid World
Staycations and camping over far-flung destinations
Alamosa County, Colorado has topped a recent list of hot destinations on Airbnb for Americans scoping out vacation destinations for Memorial Day Weekend.
As the COVID vaccine rollout progresses and airlines resume operations in earnest, many are considering getting away from home again - in many cases for the first time in many months. While some feel emboldened by the vaccine and the generally declining number of cases, not everyone feels ready to fly to far-flung destinations.
The Airbnb survey revealed that many Americans are considering less-adventurous destinations, to begin with at least. The report stated that they "anticipate most trips to be domestic this summer, with remote stays in the US between 50-300 miles making up nearly 70% of searches for Memorial Day Weekend".
The report suggested that in addition to travellers shunning vacation destinations further afield, Airbnb had also recorded significant increases in searches for certain keywords such as 'Tents' (up by 260%), 'Houseboats' (142%) and 'Farm Stay' (119%) compared to Memorial Day weekend in the years before COVID-19.
While it's encouraging that people are considering tentative travel once again, the numbers are indicative of a sense of caution. Many Americans seem to favor travelling shorter distances, prospectively within 50-300 miles from home so that they can drive rather than fly. The Airbnb data also suggests that their customers prefer the idea of self-contained accommodation where they don't have to share facilities with other travellers.
All of these seem like sensible precautions for avoiding exposure to the virus for those who remain cautious and nervous about exposure.
Air travel is ramping up
Data from the TSA seems to indicate that while many are limiting their travel for now, the volume of air travel is ramping up steadily again too. Data for May 1st shows that in 2019, 1.968 million people flew in the USA. This diminished to just 134,261 in 2020, at the height of the first wave of the pandemic. This year however, 1.335 million passengers travelled by air on May 1st - a definite sign of confidence returning and more being willing to get on an airplane once again.
The appeal of a staycation
For many travellers, a vacation doesn't feel like a vacation if they haven't travelled a significant distance and aren't able to sample new cultures, climates, scenery or food. But the Coronavirus pandemic has forced many to revise their conventional opinions on many matters - including how they take vacations.
Statista reported that in 2020, sales of camping equipment increased to $605 million from $462 million in 2019, demonstrating that many travellers are considering getting closer to nature as they travel. Such trends are expected to continue in 2021 with a growth rate of 6.68% in camping gear sales expected for the next few years.
A similar trend has been observed in the sale of campervans, with an expected growth rate of 4.5% in motorhome sales for the next five years. In 2020 the the motorhome market was valued at $9.35 billion.
Tourism boosting the economic recovery
For destinations like Alamosa County and other destinations that appeared within Airbnb's list of popular destinations (including Sandpoint, ID and Angel Fire, NM) there are benefits for the hosts who are willing to rent out property to domestic tourists. Airbnb suggest that hosts in Alamosa County can earn $1,707 for a summer's rentals - not inconsiderable!
There are also the economic benefits for other businesses in the area - the bars, cafes, restaurants and tourist attractions who may see an increase in the number of people who visit and spend their money during domestic staycations.
We are all adapting to the 'new normal' in the aftermath of COVID-19. If part of this results in more domestic travel in the USA, with the associated economic benefits for places like Alamosa County then that, surely is a good thing?