The Fourth of July weekend is typically a time when many Americans gather with family and friends to celebrate our independence from tyranny. Sadly this year, for those seeking a much needed escape, options are limited as coronavirus cases continue to climb and border controls go into effect around the world and across state lines.
Forget strolling along the Seine or kayaking British Columbia. Even New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have put restrictions on travelers from 16 U.S. states: Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, California, Georgia, Iowa, Idaho, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Nevada, Tennessee, Texas and Utah. Some states have closed beaches, canceled events, and imposed curfews, and many of the airlines are packing planes full, ignoring social distancing guidelines and adding to the anxiety of an already skittish flying public.
“People are staying close to home,” said Gillian Tans, chair of Booking.com, last week at the virtual tech conference, Collision From Home. Reporting an increase in domestic and local travel from 45% to 70%, she added, “A lot of my friends are booking cabins and staying in places they can drive to safely.”
Hussein Fazal, co-founder and CEO of SnapTravel, an AI assistant that helps people book hotels over messaging, concurred, “Our data is showing the average distance to destinations is falling. In June, Americans were traveling 319 miles, down from an average of 484 miles before the pandemic.”
“If you look at this heatmap which compares Californians traveling this July 4th holiday weekend to last summer, you can see the dramatic shift away from popular attractions across the country to local points of interest in Southern California,” said Fazal.
Where to go? What to do?
To get a better sense of where people are making their holiday getaway, SnapTravel gave me an exclusive in-depth look at their aggregated travel data. In droves, people are foregoing city adventures for seaside resorts. Sun, sand and surf with ample fresh air are being prioritized as Atlantic City, San Diego, St. Pete, Key West and Kissimmee Lake replace the cities of Atlanta, Boston, Dallas, Houston and San Antonio on SnapTravel’s Top Ten Destinations List.
Las Vegas and Orlando remain the most popular destinations, both offering fireworks and a myriad of other attractions. Despite Walt Disney World being closed, nearby theme parks are booming including Universal Studios as well as Sea World and Legoland which are promising pyrotechnic extravaganzas.
Another interesting finding revealed that hidden gems low on last year’s list are now experiencing dramatic upticks in business, including six Florida towns, Daytona Beach, Panama City, Captiva, Marco Island, Fort Meyers and St. Pete.
The good news is for those with wanderlust, there are exciting adventures to be had. For others, weekend plans are simple.
“I’m dining with my wife at a little Parisien table next to a fire pit in my backyard while watching Hamilton projected onto my garden wall,” said Adam Carey, Head of Advertising Operations at Imgur.
Nick Chester, senior PR and communications manager at Epic Games, and Jacqui Collins, former marketing and events producer at Adult Swim Games, shared the same sentiment, “I’m staying home because it’s a pandemic.”