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On The Road Again? Pandemic Suppresses Memorial Day Weekend Travel Plans

Photo by Scott McCloskey A vehicle pulling a camper travels on Interstate 70 through Wheeling on Friday afternoon ahead of Memorial Day weekend.

WHEELING — While the COVID-19 pandemic seems to be suppressing travel plans for Memorial Day weekend and early summer for many people, indications are beginning to reveal travelers are showing an interest in planning more regional and domestic trips in the coming months, according to local travel agency officials.

For the first time in 20 years, AAA did not issue a Memorial Day travel forecast, as the accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19.

AAA officials expect to make travel projections for late summer and fall, assuming states ease travel restrictions and businesses reopen.

While there are indications that people’s desire to travel is inspiring them to make future travel plans, according to AAA, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend that everyone stay home and avoid nonessential travel when possible.

“Coming off the second highest travel volume on record one year ago is a good indicator that travel will rebound eventually,” said Bevi Powell, senior vice president of AAA East Central in Pittsburgh. “This holiday weekend travel will likely be low. However, staying within social distancing guidelines will be the primary focus.”

AAA online bookings have been modestly rising since mid-April, suggesting confidence by travelers is slowly improving. AAA is predicting vacationers will have a preference for U.S. destinations, mostly local and more regional locations and the Great American Road trip, when it is safer to travel. AAA advises the decision to travel is a personal one that must be made by the individual.

Bill Bryson, owner of Uni-Globe Ohio Valley Travel agency in Wheeling, agrees that travelers’ confidence is slowly improving as his agency is beginning to see area residents booking more regional and domestic trips for mid-summer, fall and into next year. Bryson said his agency has dealt with approximately 600 people who had to cancel or postpone travel plans over the three-month period between April and June.

“We are starting to get calls now for travel,” Bryson explained. “We’re hearing a lot of that pent-up-demand … and we’re excited,” he added.

Bryson said while most of their small group trips have been canceled through the end of June, they are beginning to see more interest and planning for trips later in the year.

“At least the rest of this year I think things like domestic (trips) are going to sell much better percentage-wise … and international maybe not quite as much,” Bryson said. “We’re thinking we can start making things happen in July. … The interest we’re seeing right now is domestic (travel) seems strong, and they’re waiting for things like motor coach trips to open up.”

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