Confidence in travel has increased dramatically this summer with the arrival of COVID-19 vaccines, and the pent-up desire for vacations has become even more evident.
But the Delta variant prompted new warrants and restrictions affecting travel to and from Florida, theme parks and cruise lines requiring masks even for those vaccinated to at least one city requiring a negative COVID test for that unvaccinated visitors can enter.
It also caused some people to reconsider their summer travel plans. More than 33% of travelers nationwide are postponing their trip because of the Delta variant, according to a poll released Tuesday by Longwoods International, a market research consultant whose findings are cited in the US Travel Outlook. Travel Association. That’s a 9% increase from the group’s earlier findings released in July.
Locally, travel agents are treating the tourism disruption of the Delta variant with a wait-and-see approach.
“We are cautiously optimistic that people will increase their vaccinations,” said Scott Workman, owner of Workman Transportation & Travel. “But every day brings a new challenge.”
The variant affects consumer confidence
Analysts expected the tourism industry to recover this summer, encouraged by forecasts for summer travel – including, but not limited to, Memorial Day and the July 4 vacation – suggesting that activity would reach or exceed 2019 levels.
Three weeks before Labor Day, the unofficial end of the summer travel season, Delta threatens to upset those prospects.
Findings from Longwoods International, which found that an increasing number of travelers are postponing their vacations, also revealed that most travelers believe the pandemic will have a huge impact on their travel plans.
“News of the growing number of infections, hospitalizations and deaths is clearly changing the perception of travel safety for some travelers,” Longwoods International CEO Amir Eylon said in a statement. “And reports of so-called ‘breakthrough infections’ among vaccinated and increasing coronavirus cases in children may also weigh on travel and trip planning.”
Workman, whose agency operates a shuttle service between Orlando International Airport and Lake Sumter Landing and Brownwood depots, said its shuttle operations had been canceled due to the Delta variant.
“We had a steady climb until about two weeks ago,” he said. “We’ve had more cancellations in the last week to 10 days than we’ve had since our return. God forbid if we go into another lockdown, I have no idea what’s going to happen. happen.”
Despite the pessimistic outlook suggested in Longwoods’ investigation, Eylon said there was a silver lining in his report.
He found that a large number of travelers – around 86% – still plan to travel within the next six months.
Destinations emphasize safety
For those who decide to follow through on their vacation plans anyway, destinations keep the safety of their visitors in mind.
This may explain why Walt Disney World Resort recently began requiring all of its guests to once again wear masks indoors, at attractions, and on enclosed transportation, regardless of their immunization status.
Universal Orlando Resort also requires masks for all indoor guests.
Carnival Cruise Line, which resumed sailing with paying customers on July 31 from Port Canaveral with the maiden voyage of its Carnival Mardi Gras ship, said pre-cruise masks and COVID testing will be mandatory for all guests, not only the unvaccinated. Royal Caribbean and Disney Cruise Line have said they will require all guests, including fully vaccinated cruisers, to wear masks indoors.
Royal Caribbean was also requiring pre-cruise COVID testing for all guests, including those fully vaccinated. Villagers Tom and Judy Fujawa discovered it just a week before their scheduled departure aboard the Allure of the Seas.
“This test was not to be done more than three days before our departure date and was to be arranged by each guest at their own expense with an accredited test provider, such as a drugstore chain or diagnostic lab,” said Tom. “Fortunately, we scheduled our rapid result antigen test right away… and we came back negative.”
The Fujawas, from the village of Calumet Grove, said their cruise was “relatively enjoyable” in part because of limited capacity and social distancing. They noted, however, that some ports of call could not accommodate everyone. For example, Tom said a scheduled stop in St. Kitts was changed to St. Martin when officials in St. Kitts told Royal Caribbean that only 700 guests could leave the ship.
Beyond masking and testing requirements on cruise ships, proving vaccination status may soon become the norm.
Last week, a federal judge ruled that Norwegian Cruise Line may require proof of vaccination before embarking, a loss for Governor Ron DeSantis in a legal battle against Florida’s ban on vaccine passports, applications that show proof of vaccination.
Mask-wearing requirements for theme parks and cruise ships make Debbie Winters, a frequent visitor to Disney World who also plans to embark on an upcoming Disney cruise, to feel safe while traveling.
“The crowd was a lot bigger, so if you don’t like crowds, don’t go to Disney, but it’s anytime, mask or no mask,” said Winters, of the Village of Country. Club Hills. “But Disney is always going to make sure they are going to protect their guests.”
Workman is also keeping an eye on what’s happening with the Delta variant as he plans to follow up on upcoming day trips aboard his buses, which are attracting growing interest as The Villages customers are eager to travel.
An August 28 trip to downtown Sanford with lunch at popular German restaurant Hollerbach’s Willow Tree Cafe, as well as a September 14 guided tour of the Williston Two Tails Ranch elephant ranch, are fully booked. Several other circuits have a limited number of places remaining.
“Our day trips have been great, it has been a source of income when everything is down,” he said. “And people are educating and following what we’re doing.”
So far, Workman is waiting to see if cases escalate to the point where his agency should consider canceling day trips.
The variant complicates international travel
As international travel resumes, aided in part by cruises re-departing from Florida ports and Canada reopening its border to vaccinated U.S. tourists, the risk of overseas travel remains high.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has also increased the risk of traveling to at least 16 countries, including the U.S. Virgin Islands, a frequent port stopover on Caribbean cruises from Florida, due to higher numbers. of COVID-19 cases.
In a recent AAA survey, the automobile club found that around 41% of Floridians said they had difficulty understanding COVID-related requirements for international travel due to their variety and fluidity depending on destination and location. type of trip.
Since the start of the pandemic, AAA staff have recommended that travelers book with a travel agent, as they can identify restrictions that may impact their plans and help travelers understand their rights when they have to cancel or reschedule their routes.
Planning like this can be complicated, especially if a vacation involves multiple countries, said Robert Paluszak, president of the Villages Worldwide Foreign Travel Club.
“Some countries have different rules depending on which country you are from, so if you are traveling to multiple countries, you have to look not only from the US to Italy, you have to look at the requirements of travelers from Italy. towards Greece has to do, “he said.
Fear of not returning home due to a positive COVID test also weighs on the minds of travelers, said Paluszak, from the village of Mallory Square.
Know before you go
Travelers are recommended to continue to follow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s COVID-19 prevention guidelines, which were recently updated to recommend that vaccinated people wear masks indoors.
Mask requirements apply to travel by air, bus, train, and other forms of public transport.
Travelers who are not vaccinated should practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash their hands and get tested for COVID-19 before and after travel.
AAA, the Auto Club group, has an interactive map on its website showing where travelers may experience national and / or local COVID-19 restrictions. It can be viewed at tinyurl.com/jk5muwdd.
Senior writer Michael Salerno can be reached at 352-753-1119, ext. 5369, or [email protected]