Concerns over travel troubles fade as 160 million Americans prepare for holiday vacations

Hotel bookings are expected to soar, with 56% of respondents telling Deloitte that they plan to spend time in a hotel.

An estimated 160 million Americans are gearing up to travel this holiday season, but a recently released survey found the season will not resemble recent years.

Deloitte, a company that provides audit and assurance, tax, consulting and risk and financial advisory services to businesses, said it expects 48% of the country to travel from late November through mid-January,  but recent hindrances such as delays and pandemic-related concerns are becoming a distant memory.

In fact, concerns over disruptions and health-related matters were some of the lowest-rated factors that weighed on the minds of those not planning to travel.

Industry analysts believe pent-up demand from canceled itineraries during the COVID-19 pandemic has run its course, and travelers are looking for less exotic vacations in order to spend time with friends and family.

"The travel industry is reaching its cruising altitude this holiday season," stated Mike Daher, a vice chair leader at Deloitte. "Spending time with family and friends is even more important during the holidays, and Americans are embracing this tradition as they pack away many of the concerns that impacted plans last year. Travel providers who deliver memorable experiences during the holidays will have the opportunity to further engage travelers looking to plan additional trips in the new year."



When will airports, hotels, highways be busiest?

According to survey participants, the period between Thanksgiving and the end of November will be the busiest, with about a third of all travelers starting their holiday vacations.

The second-busiest period is expected to be from Christmas through New Year’s Eve, with an estimated 27% of travelers starting their trips.

Many travelers plan to stay at hotels, which is a significant departure from previous years.

Travel experts said the surge in hotel bookings is notable and is a result of diminishing hesitancy from the pandemic.

"Showing a lot of enthusiasm for travel, Americans are taking advantage of all the joy that the season has to offer," Eileen Crowley, a vice chair leader at Deloitte, said in a statement. "Boomers and Gen Z are set to have a particularly strong impact on the industry. Overall, more travelers plan to stay in hotels during the holidays, instead of just visiting family and friends. What’s more, laptop luggers continue to leverage flexible work arrangements to make the most of the holiday season, creating new and memorable opportunities for travelers and providers alike."

While hotel bookings surge, industries that service road travelers stand to lose the most foot traffic this holiday season.

Travelers’ intentions to hit the road this travel season are down double digits from 2021, with just about 50% planning to partake in a lengthy car trip away from home.



No hangover effect from 2022 travel debacle

Travelers appear to be confident that the domino effect that impacted many airline operations in 2022 will not repeat or at least hinder their itineraries.

Southwest Airlines canceled more than 14,000 flights between Dec. 23 to Jan. 1 due to an apparent meltdown in logistics, the repercussions from which the company is still dealing. The Department of Transportation recently notified the carrier that it failed to provide adequate customer service assistance, notifications and prompt refunds, allegations that could amount to significant civil penalties. The company said it has increased equipment and bolstered overall winter preparedness at airports to function more effectively. 

Ground crews at many airports, including Philadelphia International Airport, are already preparing for the busy travel months.

"We train on our snow removal equipment leading up to the season so that they’re ready to go if, and hopefully not when there’s snow, and we have our deicing pad ready," said Heather Redfern, a spokesperson for Philadelphia International Airport. "You know, for frost, that is sometimes an issue here with the cold weather, and if planes have been here overnight, they need to (de-ice) before they take off."

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