Today the AAA released its summer forecast, projecting that Americans will take 700 million trips in July through September. That’s down nearly 15% compared to last year and the first decline in summer travel since the Great Recession in 2009.
Were it not for the coronavirus pandemic, AAA said it would have predicted 857 million trips during the third quarter, an increase of 3.6% over last year. In other words, the pandemic wiped out over 150 million trips this summer.
AAA’s forecast seems to square with findings from the Harris Poll COVID-19 tracker, which also indicates that Americans are still wary of traveling. Only a quarter of Americans (24%) say they will stay in a hotel within a month of the COVID-19 curve flattening, and only four out of 10 Americans (41%) say they will do within three months.
AAA booking trends show that the share of travelers making plans 48 hours to seven days before departure – a sign that people are arranging last-minute trips – is significantly higher than normal. Americans are “taking a ‘wait and see approach’ when it comes to booking and are likely to book more long weekend getaways than extended vacations,” said Paula Twidale, AAA’s senior vice president of travel.
Arguably, the AAA’s predictions for summer travel is optimistic, given that it has become harder to plan a road trip in recent days.
The AAA forecast was calculated with a set of assumptions — “travel restrictions lifting but social distancing still recommended” — but the timing couldn’t be worse, coming out just as COVID-19 cases are climbing in nearly half of the states across the nation, and as several states are either pausing or dialing back their reopening plans.
Nationwide, COVID-19 cases are up 30% compared to the beginning of June. Seven states, including Arizona, have set records for COVID-19 hospitalizations — the very concern that led the nationwide lockdowns several months ago.
Here’s a sample of what has happened in the past two days:
Yesterday, the governors of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut announced that travelers from nine states with high infection rates would need to self-quarantine for two weeks upon entering the tri-state region.
Also yesterday, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper announced that residents will be required to wear face masks in public and that the state’s Phase 2 will continue for three more weeks, as coronavirus cases continue to rise at an alarming rate.
Today, Texas Governor Greg Abbott announced that the Lone Star State will pause any further reopening, as confirmed cases of the coronavirus and related hospitalizations have spiked. Abbott also limited the maximum size of gatherings to 100 people, down from a500. “Unless you do need to go out, the safest place for you is at your home,” he said.