October – Business travel to the end of the year is a lost cause –Business travel is down over 80% and will stay that way for the rest of the year. Almost all meetings and conventions for the remainder of 2020 have all been cancelled or moved to a virtual format. We do see essential business travel happening to a limited degree now and some small business salespeople are hitting the road but the traveler that works for large corporations will not return to traveling until 2021. Some vacation travel is starting to thaw. (Air travel will be down 75% from last year)
November – Sing Hallelujah, the arrival of a 15 minute COVID test will become widely available. This test is already available (September) but getting it distributed into the hands of all travelers will most likely be available in November. This will open international travel a little bit. Businesses will start to see the light at the end of the tunnel and some will start planning for travel in the New Year. They will start making reservations for travel in the first quarter of 2021. Vacation travelers will also feel more confident to travel and many will start to squeeze in some last-minute holiday travel around Thanksgiving and Christmas. Travel by car will see a large increase this month as holiday air travel will lose people who travel by car instead. This month we will also start to see a strengthening pickup in reservations to “sun and fun” resorts in Florida, Arizona, Mexico, and the Caribbean. (Air travel will be down 70%).
December – This is the month people will use their frequent flyer miles – The first two weeks of December are usually very slow weeks for air travel. This year will be painfully so. The silver lining is that empty planes mean it is a good time to redeem those unused hotel and airline frequent flyer miles. And if you don’t have frequent flyer miles to burn, don’t worry as airfares and hotel prices should be dirt cheap. Business travel will be dead all month. Historically this month sees very few business travelers as the holidays and vacations distract most business travel. Vacation travelers are also so busy preparing for Christmas they don’t have time to plan for travel this month. (Air travel will be down 65%).
January – Happy New Year! The big thaw for corporate travel will start this month – Businesses will want to put 2020 in the rearview mirror and also want to forget about the messy elections in November. Large corporations will finally have plans in place to bring some of their staff back to the office. This will be a springboard month for the travel industry and I think we will start to see a slow monthly climb in air travel. The “sun and fun’ destinations will quickly start to fill more rooms as pent-up demand for the last 10 months makes people want to “Get out of Dodge”. Airlines will only be offering about 50% of the flights they did from a year ago so I actually think you will see airfares start to rise as the fewer planes in service fill up. Resorts in the Caribbean and Mexico will offer great prices to get you traveling and even Hawaii will be back on the radar. (Air travel will be down 60%)
February – A vaccine will finally be widely available so travelers become confident – Senior travelers will get a big boost in confidence to travel this month as I anticipate the COVID vaccine will be widely available. Vacations travelers will want to climb back into the travel saddle. Families who have put off vacations will start planning to get out of the house. Snowbirds will head south. Travel is now actively on the minds of many Americans again. Business travelers will start to fill their calendars again with sales and customer service trips. Travel to Europe will be kick-started this month with international markets being held throughout Europe (Air travel will double from current levels but still be down 40% year over year)
March – Spring is finally here and everyone will want to start planning for travel – We will have rapid testing, a vaccine, plus great cleaning protocols for airplanes and hotels. You will still be required to wear a mask to fly and in most hotels but confidence and vaccines will turn the corner for the travel industry. Business travel will start coming back strong now. Many conventions and meetings will offer both virtual and “in-person” options that will make business travelers want to jump into an airplane again. Salespeople will want to start meeting face-to-face with prospects. Service people will continue to travel to make their companies run. International travel will be getting much stronger with new safety protocols in place that allow for confident and safe travel to most countries around the world. This will also be the month that airlines start adding flights and services as the planes will be full yet they will still be losing money. Adding more flights will be a signal that travel is finally coming back. (Air travel will be down only 35% from the year before and this may be the “new normal” for the rest of the year.