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U.S. travel down over holiday weekend

By Vicky O. Misa | Vicky.misa@news-star.com | (405) 214-3962 | Twitter: @Vicky_NewsStar
The Shawnee News-Star
U.S. travel down over holiday weekend

Arguably one of the most traveled weekends each year has just passed. But unlike most years, residents all over the U.S. last week decided to pass on traveling.

Thanksgiving road trips defied predictions of being one of the busiest of the year, showing numbers down 35 percent from last year, according to travel data company, Arrivalist and its Daily Travel Index.

COVID-19 precautions, yet again, could be the reason behind the decline.

Ahead of the annual celebration of thanks, public health experts warned Americans to refrain from traveling during the holiday against the backdrop of a surge in coronavirus cases and deaths.

The results are a departure from previous holidays earlier this year — such as Fourth of July and Labor Day — when road trip activity rivaled or exceeded the same period in the previous year. Road trip activity observed over Thanksgiving made it the least traveled major holiday of the year, with less activity than observed over Memorial Day.

“Travel by private car — generally regarded as one of the safest and most available means of leisure travel during the pandemic — had begun establishing itself as a leading indicator of travel’s rebound,” Arrivalist CEO Cree Lawson said. “That appears to have taken a back seat to people’s desire to protect themselves and each other from a surge of COVID-19 cases.”

Those who did travel over the holiday were more likely to stay overnight (69.3 percent) than in 2019 when 68.2 percent of those who departed on Wednesday or Thursday stayed overnight, the data company reported. Trips observed in 2020 were also shorter with trips of 50-100 miles represented 46.1 percent of trips, up from 44.8 percent the year before.

“The pandemic trends are clearly not going to allow a broad reopening of travel nearly as soon as we hoped,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Roger Dow said. “It’s heartening to see Americans making decisions to keep safe, but the situation is exceptionally painful for travel businesses and workers.”

According to the data, road trip activity varied greatly by state over the holiday. Nearly all states in the Northeast, plus Illinois and Ohio saw less than half the road trip activity of the prior year. States with the greatest reduction in road trip activity included Vermont (-66.4 percent); Rhode Island (-64.9 percent); Connecticut (-57.6 percent); Massachusetts (-52.7 percent); New Hampshire (-52.6 percent); Illinois (-52.1 percent); and Ohio (-52.0 percent).

The drop in year-over-year travel was pronounced in all states, with the smallest drop experienced in Utah, which was still down more than 13 percent, according to Arrivalist data. Others were Nevada (-20.4 percent); Montana (-24.5 percent); South Dakota (-27.6 percent); Wyoming (-28.7 percent); and North Dakota (- 39.3 percent).

“From a travel perspective, Thanksgiving 2020 looks just like any other weekend in 2020 — and a light one at that. It’s a bitter pill today but travel demand overall is as strong as ever, and I expect delivering a vaccine will give the industry a shot in the arm.”

In Oklahoma, considering the time period between Nov. 22 and Nov. 28, travel was reportedly down 36 percent, compared to last year's figures.

Regarding travel over the past month — namely Oct. 20 through Nov. 28 — numbers have been down 21.4 percent in the state, compared to last year.

The data was compiled from road trips of 50 miles or more initiated Wednesday, Nov. 25, or Thursday, Nov. 26, compared to the Wednesday preceding and Thursday of Thanksgiving last year. Road trips of less than 50 miles and travel completed by plane were not included in the calculations.