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Delta Variant Derails Travel Industry Rebound As Online Bookings, Flight Prices Plummet

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at September 20, 2021


The latest wave of Covid-19 has nixed hopes of a speedy recovery for the U.S. travel industry, according to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index, with months of rebounding demand and prices for air travel lost in August as the pandemic continues to dampen appetite for travel. 

Key Facts

In August, consumers spent $4 billion online on U.S. domestic flights, according to Adobe’s Digital Economy Index, 35% below the same month in 2019.

The figure also marks a 24% drop from July’s spending of $5.26 billion, which Adobe Digital Insights lead analyst Vivek Pandya said typically falls close to August, and underscores how surging Covid-19 cases are reversing months of recovery for the industry. 

Online spending in June ($6 billion) was just 5% shy of pre-pandemic levels in 2019 and July was the first month of 2021 where flight prices bounced back to 2019 levels after months of steady gains. 

But prices dipped again in August, falling 11% below pre-pandemic levels in 2019, according to Adobe. 

This trend continued during the first ten days of September, Adobe found, with flight prices sinking 22% below 2019 levels and the $1.5 billion spent in early September is 39% below the same period in 2019. 

Big Number

$38 billion. That’s how much consumers have spent on online domestic flight bookings between January and August this year, according to Adobe. This is down 30% compared to the same period in 2019.

What To Watch For 

Holiday-related bookings are also well below pre-pandemic levels, according to Adobe. At the end of August, Thanksgiving flight bookings were down 18% from the same time in 2019, when roughly a quarter of tickets had already been booked. The ten most popular destinations for those flying in September and October, according to arrival sites, are: Key West, FL; Kailua-Kona, HI; Bozeman, MT; Kahului, HI; Honolulu; Lihue, HI; Orlando, FL; Las Vegas; Palm Springs, CA and Portland, ME.

Key Background 

The travel industry has been one of the worst hit during the pandemic. The roll out of vaccines, drop in cases and returning consumer confidence spurred months of steady recovery and by summer the sector was on an optimistic trajectory. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) reported record travel over holidays like Memorial Day and July 4, and hotel occupancy rates hitting their highest rates since 2019. The rapid spread of the delta variant dented this progress, however, and polling suggests more than half of Americans will postpone or cancel trips to areas experiencing major outbreaks. The sector received a reprieve Monday after the White House announced plans to ease longstanding travel restrictions for foreign visitors. The United Nations estimate the crash of international tourism could end up costing the global economy more than $4 trillion in 2020 and 2021, much worse than predictions it made a year ago. 

Further Reading

Delta Variant Slams Brakes On U.S. Domestic Air Travel As Demand, Flight Prices Drop Below Pre-Pandemic Levels (Forbes)

Florida Getting Nearly As Many Tourists As It Did Pre-Pandemic, Report Finds As Covid Surges (Forbes)

2020’s Busiest Travel Destination Was Tampa And St. Petersburg, Florida, Hotel Data Shows (Forbes)

The Ultimate Guide To Covid-19 Travel Restrictions: Masks, Testing, Vaccine Mandates And More (Forbes)

U.S. Will Require Foreign Visitors Be Fully Vaccinated Against Covid (Forbes)

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