Economy

Travel Industry Makes Early Attempts To Get On The Road (And In The Air) Again

travel airport

Consumers want to get out. PYMNTS’ recent consumer studies point to that fact, as almost half of Americans we surveyed (48.9 percent) report being bored shut in their homes, 50 percent want to travel domestically and 19.9 percent hope to resume international travel. The travel and tourism industry is gearing up to oblige.

For example, Delta Air Lines anticipates adding around 1,000 flights a day in July and another 1,000 in August, CNBC reported. That will still mean the airline’s capacity will be down 55 to 60 percent, but it’s an improvement from earlier in the second quarter, when Delta was only running at about 15 percent of full speed.

JetBlue also announced plans this week to add 30 new domestic routes to cater to leisure-travel demand. That will take its operations to above the 50 percent mark for normal summer capacity — again, an improvement from earlier levels.

“With business travel facing a less certain recovery timeline, the new routes offer JetBlue the opportunity to generate revenue, bring aircraft back into service that would otherwise sit idle, and add more flying opportunities for JetBlue crewmembers,” the New York-based airline said in a statement.

Airlines aren’t the only travel players beginning to cast their eyes to the future. For example, Hawaii’s massive travel industry is starting to rethink how to reboot itself.

There’s broad-based confidence that tourists will return — if not this summer, then in 2021. But Will Elliott, an Oahu native who works in commercial real estate, told Conde Nast Traveler that the pandemic has created the opportunity for the state to rethink its relationship with tourism. That includes educating tourists about the areas that they’re visiting.

“We need to change the current consumer mindset to a ‘contribution’ mindset, so people can go into the local communities and experience and understand the culture,” Elliot said. “That’s how you create respectful, socially conscious visitors.”

The coronavirus has certainly slammed Hawaii’s tourism industry. Conde Nast said that when the state put a quarantine in place in March, arrivals dropped nearly overnight from 30,000 a day to fewer than 500. However, Hawaii has since extended its two-week quarantine through July 31.

But some residents see the lack of crowds, the easily navigable roads and improved environmental conditions brought about by the tourism pause as a plus.

“The moral fabric [is] changing,” resident Ekolu Lindsey told Conde Nast. “People have to work two to three jobs to make a living here, [and] they didn’t have time to pass on knowledge and traditions. With this break, I’m seeing families fishing together again. It reminds me of the ’70s.”

Still, tourism drives much of Hawaii’s economy, and while the state has tried to beef up its agriculture and tech industries to mitigate the losses, the devastation caused by tourism’s decline is increasingly a cause for alarm. Hawaiians might not exactly miss their tourists, but they know they need them back — and soon.

“We are completely dead and struggling for our lives,” Jessica Pickering, owner of Maui Diving Scuba & Snorkel Center on the island of Maui, told Conde Nast. “I can’t attract one student, even at a discount.”

But demand for travel still exists among U.S. consumers — especially those the coronavirus forced to work from home. PYMNTS’ surveys found that such consumers are more likely than average to be bored, with 53.2 percent feeling that way. Similarly, 57.9 percent of them reported a desire to travel domestically, while more than a quarter (26.2 percent) would like to get back to international travel again.

That could mean the hard-hit travel-and-tourism industry could be heading for a smooth landing … eventually.

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