A rebounding travel industry sees travelers longing to vacation in Florida

by | Apr 23, 2021

Travel experts are seeing early indications of a rebound in the travel industry, fueled by pent-up demand. And where is everyone wanting to go? Well, multiple travel and lodging experts say Florida.

Several studies show travelers’ confidence growing each month, boosted by Covid vaccines, flexible cancellation policies and the need to escape the confines of home.

Rather than only comparing with the same period in 2020, when everything started to shutdown, a study conducted by HomeToGo looked back at performance in 2019 as well. It found that January and February were already showing a larger volume of total searches compared to 2020 with an 86 percent and 98 percent year-over-year increase respectively, but when HomeToGo dropped 2020 and compared 2021 with 2019, it still saw significant growth.

“We’re already seeing a 144 percent increase from 2019 in searches with a check-in date for April 2021. It’s an incredibly promising sign for property managers,” said the study.

Those travelling this year are more likely to be families than business travelers and they are seeking smaller, outdoor destinations than travelers in 2019.

According to Airbnb, “When it comes to locations, warm weather locales, small beach towns, and access to state and national parks are fueling spring and summer wanderlust. “

Cape San Blas, in the Florida Panhandle, came in at number five on Airbnb’s most searched destinations.

HomeToGo’s top-booked state in the United States in March 2021 for travel at any point in the future is Florida. Three of its top 10 destinations are also in Florida: Number one is Panama City Beach; Number five is Destin; and, Number eight is Miramar Beach.

This year, only 12 percent of summer travel searches are for urban destinations. But for those who chose a “urban” destination, according to vacationrenter.com, their top choice is Orlando.

Experts are also seeing car rental shortages, particularly in Florida.

“Massive availability issues … are going to play out … as the weather warms up,” said Jonathan Weinberg, CEO of rental car website AutoSlash in an interview with CNBC. He said there was a “de-fleeting” by rental car companies (selling of cars or deferring or canceling plans to buy new ones) last year and the difficulty and cost to buy new cars this year due to vehicle production and semiconductor shortages.

He reported that, during the last weekend in March, 18 out of 20 commercial airports in Florida had zero availability, and off-airport locations “were similarly slammed.” Weinberg said those who could rent cars were paying upwards of $500 a day.

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