The travel sector, largely decimated in 2020 by the global pandemic, has gotten a proverbial “shot in the arm” so far in 2021 resulting from widespread COVID vaccinations. As of April 18th of this year, over half (50.4%) of the U.S. adult population had received at least one dose of a vaccine with close to one-third (32.5%) of the same population being fully inoculated.1 The rise in vaccinations appears to be in line with a variety of positive leading indicators for the travel industry.
On the ground: Ride sharing companies Lyft and Uber are seeing sharp upticks in volume. Lyft saw its highest ridership for the week ending February 28th since March 20202 and, more recently, Uber saw its highest monthly gross bookings in company history for the month ending March 31st.3 Both companies have since introduced new driver incentives to ramp up supply in order to meet expected demand.4 Airbnb is seeking millions of more hosts to support an anticipated supply/demand imbalance for future travelers.5 “… we think there’s going to be a travel rebound coming that’s unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” says Airbnb CEO, Brian Chesky.
In the air: TSA checkpoint data, which measures the amount of passengers traveling through TSA checkpoints on a daily basis, have shown passengers increasing at a rate of 5% on a weekly basis6 and now hover between 49% and 69% of pre-pandemic (2019) passenger levels for the period April 1st – April 18th.7 Major airlines including (but limited to) United, JetBlue, Spirit, and American have each announced plans to hire new staff in order to increase capacity come summer time.8 According to an Expedia Group study, travelers are turning to online travel agents for trip planning nearly 25% more than they were pre-pandemic to assist in navigating the tricky landscape that pandemic traveling entails as well as for price comparison and itinerary formation.9
Looking ahead, many expect a years-long travel boom to result from pandemic related measures. Regional and domestic travel will likely be the quickest to rebound while the return to international and business travel will have a slower, incremental rollout. According to a Trip.com SEC filing, the global travel market is expected to increase from $4.7 trillion by the end of 2021 to $7.1 trillion by the end of 2025, growing at a CAGR of 10.6% for the period.10
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2. Yahoo! Finance: Lyft Gains on Upbeat February Ride Volumes & Improved Q1 View
3. MarketWatch: Uber says it saw its highest gross bookings on record in March
4. MarketPlace: Uber and Lyft Dole Out Cash to Get Drivers Back on Road
5. CNBC: Airbnb CEO says company is going to need millions more hosts to meet demand
6. MarketWatch: Book travel as soon as possible, Americans are flying again and soon it could be hard to find vacation discounts
7. TSA: Checkpoint Travel Numbers
8. CNBC: Travel during COVID as flight demand recovers, airlines revive pilot hiring
9. BusinessWire: Expedia Group Launches COVID-19 Advisor Tool to Track Global Travel Restrictions
10. SEC.gov: Trip.com Group Supplemental and Updated Disclosures