Hotel booking cancellations are on the rise due to concerns over the most recent spate in COVID-19 restrictions alongside the arrival of the Omicron variant, Reuters reported Tuesday (Dec. 14).
Online travel search company Trivago said cancellation rates had increased to 35% since November, with holiday travel planning down 10%. More travelers were also looking at domestic destinations, rather than taking a risk with international travel.
According to Trivago, general activity around holiday travel planning has slowed down — it grew by only 4% since Omicron was discovered.
The Omicron variant has been reported to be more contagious than previous variants, though research hadn’t determined if it was more deadly. The variant was first reported in South Africa and has since been found elsewhere in the world.
Since its arrival, there have been more travel testing requirements and border closings. Many events like sports, trade shows and corporate parties have been canceled since its discovery, further spurring hotel cancellations.
In November, Trivago said it had seen a 35% increase in traffic leading up to Thanksgiving, but in the pandemic era, people are liable to stick closer to home when they travel. The company said that like last year, “domestic travel is the preferred option as consumers look to reunite with friends and family.”
United Airlines said it expected around 8 million people to fly during the year-end holiday season — higher than the number flying during Thanksgiving — but recently noted that Omicron was a likely threat to travel.
International flight searches were down roughly 35% to 39% the first week of December, according to data from rival travel site Kayak.
In Norway, the Omicron variant has resulted in new restrictions, including banning the sale of alcohol in both bars and restaurants, closing gyms and swimming pools and introducing more rules in schools.
Norwegian Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Store said the new variant “changes the rules” and made it necessary to act fast.