Holiday travel expected to decline as season kicks off

Coronavirus

DALLAS (NewsNation Now) — The 2020 holiday travel season continues, but what will that actually look like during a pandemic for Christmas and New Years? According to the latest numbers from AAA, we know that three quarters of Americans say they plan to stay home.

It’s been a bumpy ride for Americans this year. The coronavirus causing unexpected turbulence—especially during a holiday season that has been anything but normal. And during a time when end-of-year travel to gather with loved ones would be so warmly welcomed, the CDC says the best way to celebrate is at home.

“December and January and February are going to be rough times,” said CDC Director Dr. Robert Redfield. “I actually believe they’re going to be the most difficult time in the public health history of this nation.”

Most state leaders asking their residents to heed the warnings of health officials and wait until it’s safe to celebrate.

“I don’t know that Christmas in July is going to have the same hot cocoa, hot coffee Christmas morning (effect), but I can delay that,” said New Mexico Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham. “And I’m asking and hoping that you can do the very same.”

According to AAA, travel volume is decreasing 29% this year; however, there are still about 85 million Americans who plan on driving or flying.

“Things have been different, and they’re probably going to be different for a little bit longer,” said Chris Perry with Dallas Love Field.

With air travel expected to decline by about 60%, Perry says it is a hit hubs like his in Texas are feeling all across the country with daily customer count down significantly.

“Around the holidays—Thanksgiving, Christmas—we’ll get closer to 20,000 (passengers) normally,” said Perry. “But right now we’re looking around like 9,500 to 11,000, something like that.”

Some airports like Tampa International have implemented COVID testing sites inside the terminal to give passengers peace of mind.

“We had people lined up here before they even opened this morning, and we’ve had a steady stream of people all day wanting to get the test to see if they have COVID,” said an unidentified Tampa airport official.

And for Americans opting for a good old fashioned family road trip, experts at GasBuddy say traffic volume has dropped, but it remains an especially popular choice this year.

“At least so far, COVID-19 really not slowing down Americans hitting the road,” said Patrick De Haan, head of petroleum analysis at GasBuddy. “In fact, of those hitting the road almost 40% of them are going to be crossing a state line.”

De Haan says he is seeing most road trippers come from more rural parts of the country. Couple COVID-19 with your average tank of gas costing $2.19 a gallon this month, and the open road sounds pretty appealing.

“Average gas prices on Christmas likely will be their lowest since 2015,” said De Haan.

No matter which way your ticket or tank takes you, many travelers just wanting to be home for the holidays. Like Dallas resident Josh Covey who decided to travel in his Christmas best to spread some much-needed cheer. This will be his first time flying since the pandemic broke out.

“I’ve kind of just been avoiding it, made the drive over Thanksgiving,” said Covey. “So I think I took a leap of faith here, and I thought ‘We’ll give this a fly, we’ll give it a whirl.’ And like I said, how am I going to spread some cheer without the suit?”

If you break this down even further, it’s only about one in four Americans who plans to travel this year. 2020 will see the lowest holiday travel volume since 2002, which ends an 11-year streak of growth for American travel. Of course due to the pandemic, unemployment numbers have increased and consumer spending has decreased. Travel has become a luxury that some can no  longer afford.

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