The rebound of US domestic tourism businesses post-pandemic has taken an intriguing turn, with a surge in the number of Americans opting to explore international destinations this summer.
Reports from Skift reveal that various companies and tourism operators have acknowledged a decline in domestic tourism rates this summer, marking a departure from the COVID-19 era when travel plans for Americans were put on hold for nearly two years.
Diane Medler, CEO of Montana’s Discover Kalispell, likened the situation to a burst bubble, citing a return to pre-pandemic normalcy akin to 2019 levels of visitation. One contributing factor she pointed to was the resurgence in international travel.
While the interest in US domestic tourism has slightly waned, it hasn’t extinguished entirely. CEO of RVShare, a platform for renting RVs, notes that growth has significantly slowed compared to the pandemic-era surge in RV bookings.
A prevailing sentiment among American travelers this year is a preference for international destinations. Yves Marceau, Vice President of Product for G Adventures, corroborates this trend, revealing a decline in the number of domestic tourists frequenting hotels in Yellowstone, Jackson, Wyoming, San Francisco, and across the US.
Tour operators, who were consistently fully booked over the past two years, now find themselves more available. According to the US National Travel and Tourism Office, between January and May, 36 million Americans traveled abroad, marking a 35% increase from the previous year. Correspondingly, airlines have noticed a renewed interest in international travel.
Robin Hayes, CEO and Director of JetBlue Airways, attributes this shifting landscape to pent-up demand following the pandemic. The surge in demand for long-haul international travel has influenced a decrease in interest for shorter-distance trips.
This evolving scenario isn’t necessarily negative. While some destinations witnessed a boom in interest during the pandemic, they grappled with managing overwhelming visitor numbers, particularly for outdoor activities like camping. Some communities have even taken measures to control visitor influxes, redirecting resources to local needs such as affordable housing.
Diane Medler views the shift as a positive trend, normalizing US domestic tourism once again. The rise of remote work and investments in campground Wi-Fi have facilitated more travel within the US. With the upcoming solar eclipse on April 8, 2024, there’s potential for increased interest, as the event drew substantial attention in 2017.