Travelers Appear to Enjoy Memorial Day Weekend as Places Reopen

It was a weekend of mixed results as many Americans engaged in a dual celebration – the Memorial Day Holiday combined with the first real release from lockdown and shelter-in-place restrictions that have been prevalent since March due to the spread of the coronavirus pandemic.

While some folks at beaches and lakes and other public areas wore face masks and practiced social distancing, others did not. That prompted authorities to, literally, police areas and ask crowds to be more diligent, while health officials warned that disregarding safety measures could trigger a second wave of COVID-19.

At some spots in Florida and California, authorities closed parking lots near beaches to discourage more people from setting up shop on the sand.

It prompted warnings and advisories on social media.

The public parking lots on Clearwater Beach are all currently at capacity. There is still room in the Hyatt parking garage. Be sure to check for beach and parking lot closure updates throughout the day.

But in other places like Maine and Virginia, where swimming was prohibited, people were respectful and simply walked quietly on the beach.

And even in New Jersey, one of the hardest-hit states by the virus, people were diligent.

Big wide beach&big beautiful blue skies&sunshine in Wildwood for easy social distance summer of 2020 start. And beautiful blowing USA flag, reminding of sacrifices of so many on foreign beaches in past wars who died for freedom. Thanks Wildwood Beach Patrol for pic @FOX29philly

But this was the scene at St. Simon’s Island, Georgia.

Social distancing…

And Ocean City, Maryland, one of the most popular and densely packed tourist areas on the eastern seaboard because of its famed three-mile boardwalk, was packed with visitors from Washington D.C., Baltimore, Pennsylvania and southern New Jersey.

Chris Sexton, who traveled to Ocean City from Baltimore, told a local television station it was ‘heaven.’

“Hallelujah! I would think there would not be that many people, but it was more than I expected,” he said.

With the relaxing of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions, visitors crowd the boardwalk on Memorial Day weekend in Ocean City, Maryland. REUTERS Photo by Kevin Lamarque

And folks were not afraid to visit destinations far from home.

“I mean, I think we are keeping our distance from other families and other groups of friends. I feel really safe out here,” Carolina Camp, who drove from Nashville, Tenn., told 4News in Folly Beach, S.C.

Folly Beach looked similar to Memorial Day Weekends of the past, even though there’s plenty that’s different going on.

But if you want to get to the sand at some point this weekend, mayor Tim Goodwin stresses to show some patience when it comes to traffic and parking. @ABCNews4

But perhaps no place was wilder than Lake of the Ozarks in Osage Beach, Missouri.

This video is on Snapchat in the Lake of the Ozarks? Unreal. What are we doing?

John Olivarri, mayor of Osage Beach, said that short of shutting down the popular destination there was little he could do.

“My concern is for our workers and whether some of the folks that have come down might be creating a health problem for the community, absolutely,” Olivarri said. “But the only other thing that you could do would be shut it down. I don’t know how you would shut down Lake of the Ozarks. There’s no way to control that.”

Alan Hull, the front-desk manager at the Days Inn told the St. Louis Dispatch, “We are a lot busier this year. All the hotels here around the lake are busy.”

But at Disney Springs at World Disney World in Orlando, capacity was trimmed to help aid social distancing, according to TravelPulse writer Brooke McDonald, who traveled from Illinois to Florida this past weekend.

Crowds were light enough at Disney Springs today that social distancing came naturally. Orange and lime garages both had a ton of spaces at 3:45pm. #DisneySprings

The death toll from the virus is expected to reach 100,000 shortly in America. But it’s not just in the U.S. where people are stretching their legs, so to speak, after being confined to their homes for the better part of two-plus months.

This was the scene at Bournemouth Beach in England on Monday.

The Cummings lockdown-ignoring effect… Bournemouth beach today.

The Memorial Day holiday weekend was certainly different this year because of the global pandemic, but that didn’t stop some from traveling to nearby destinations to partake in festivities.

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Survey Shows Travelers Want Environmentally Friendly Air Options

As the airline industry begins its recovery in the wake of the coronavirus, it would be well served to pay heed to travelers ever-increasing concerns about sustainability issues.

In January and February – just prior to the COVID-19 crisis becoming a global pandemic – OAG, a global data provider, surveyed more than 2,000 travelers on sustainability issues.

According to the survey, 56 percent of all travelers and 50 percent of business travelers would consider switching their preferred airline if there were “more environmentally friendly options available.” Interestingly, that number was even higher for millennials (68 percent).

Similarly, 54 percent of all travelers – and 69 percent of millennials –would be more likely to “use a travel site to plan and book travel if they received sustainability-related information to help inform purchases.”

Many respondents said they would be willing to “explore new options to reduce their own carbon footprint.” Sixty-six percent said they would be willing to accept fewer daily flights with larger aircraft if it resulted in fewer carbon emissions, and 50 percent said they be willing to change to a “greener mode of transportation, even it if took longer than the typical flight.”

Fifty percent said they would be willing to increase their travel time by 50 percent for a greener mode of transportation, and 59 percent said they would be willing to increase their total travel time by two hours or more. Forty-four percent of business travelers said they would willing to increase their total travel time by two hours or more.

On the subject of airfare, 36 percent of respondents said they would be willing to pay up to 10 percent more for “flights that had a smaller impact than other similar flight options.” Eight percent said they would pay up to 25 percent more; two percent said they’d pay up to 50 percent more; 54 percent said they would not be willing to pay more.

Travelers’ sustainability concerns go beyond the airline industry. “Consumers expect the entire travel ecosystem – especially OTAs and travel search engines – to be more transparent about the sustainability impact of various travel options,” the survey stated.

When asked what information, “if made available,” would influence their booking decisions, 32 percent of all travelers and 42 percent of millennial travelers said data on a flight’s environmental impact/carbon emissions. Thirty-nine percent of all travelers and 55 percent of millennials said data on an airline’s environmental impact/carbon emissions, and 26 percent of all travelers and 35 percent of millennials said data on an airport’s environmental impact.

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Travelers Are Warming Up to Taking a Vacation

The road back to travel for many Americans will literally be on the road.

New research from MMGY Travel Intelligence shows that travelers are warming up to the idea of a vacation as they begin to see the peak of COVID-19 pass and states start to reopen.

Key findings from the latest wave of the Traveler Intentions Pulse Survey (TIPS) show that there is a growing interest in road trips and destinations that are close to home.

The percentage of travelers who agreed that they are more likely to travel by car after COVID-19 passes increased in the last two weeks from 35 percent in Wave II to 47 percent in Wave III.

The percentage who said they are more likely to travel to destinations close to home increased from 36 percent in Wave II to 42 percent in Wave III. Older travelers were more likely to agree with this.

This third wave also found that the percentage of travelers who said that an easing of travel restrictions would impact their decision to travel increased from 45 percent in Wave II to 53 percent in Wave III.

While Americans may be dreaming of travel, they will be cautious when travel restrictions are eased.

The MMGY survey found that six in 10 respondents will be eager to travel for leisure once the COVID-19 emergency has passed, which is up from 54 percent in Wave II. However, just 38 percent say they are likely to take a leisure trip in the next six months.

As Americans begin to settle into this new normal during the pandemic, many are beginning to feel safer. Travelers were slightly less concerned about the threat of contracting COVID-19 than they were just two weeks prior.

Americans’ concern about others in their household contracting the virus dropped from 40 percent in Wave II to 34 percent in Wave III. And, travelers aged 50-64 years continue to be the age group least concerned.

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Survey Shows Travelers Dreaming About Travel, Cautious About Planning

As Americans remain under stay-at-home orders around the country, it can sometimes be hard to imagine a world where tourism returns to normal. However, surveys continue to show that Americans can’t wait to travel again and that pent-up demand is building.

Research from advertising company BVK not only provides insight into how Americans are feeling about taking vacations, but also the marketing that will and won’t be effective when selling them on traveling again.

Many Americans viewed the tourism industry response favorably, and the BVK survey found that those planning a future trip were the most likely to view the response to the spread of COVID-19 as appropriate.

Americans are also planning to travel again. This survey revealed that eight in 10 U.S. travelers are currently planning, thinking or dreaming about travel. A majority also said that they feel travel will be safe after the restrictions are lifted.

Nearly 46 percent said they would return to their typical travel behaviors after a few weeks. Just over 34 percent said that it would take between a few months to more than a year to return to normal.

Interestingly, younger people were more likely to view travel as unsafe after the restrictions are lifted but were still likely to return to their normal travel behavior quicker than other age groups.

More than 37 percent said that they would pursue out-of-state travel and almost 35 percent said that they would travel in-state only.

One of the things that will change after the coronavirus outbreak is what travelers will want to do when travel restrictions are lifted. The BVK research found that “social distancing” activities will be most popular, including road trips, beach vacations, outdoor adventures, and remote/rural destinations. At least to start, big cities, festivals, cruises and group tours will be a harder sell.

For now, too, selling is not something that Americans are looking for.

About half of U.S. travelers (52 percent) said that they only want to see travel advertising that is addressing their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and 48 percent said that they feel it is insensitive for travel companies and destinations to advertise right now.

That doesn’t mean that Americans aren’t dreaming of travel.

Four in 10 (42 percent) said that even now, they like to see advertising for vacation destinations, meaning those thinking about marketing to travelers should be plan campaigns that are sensitive to the way Americans are feeling.

Americans who are either currently planning a future trip, thinking about future travel or dreaming about travel all are more likely to said that, even now, they like to see advertising for vacation destinations compared to those who have put all thinking of travel on hold.

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Travelers raise alarm over coronavirus screening at US airports

Americans who have recently returned to the U.S. say they have received little or inconsistent guidance from airport and government officials about self-quarantining and social distancing, raising concerns about coronavirus screening practices at transport hubs.

a group of people standing around each other: Travelers raise alarm over coronavirus screening at US airports

The experiences described by travelers, coupled with the federal policies in place, put the U.S. at odds with many of the precautions other countries are taking to limit the spread of coronavirus.

Health officials who have been setting guidelines for Americans in the U.S. say there are still risks of more cases being brought into the country.

“I know we’re going to be successful in putting this under control,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, a member of the White House coronavirus task force, said on Wednesday. “But I think we’re going to have to remember is that we don’t want to import cases in.”

Travelers who spoke with The Hill said that their return to the U.S. raised concerns about how the threat of coronavirus spread is being handled at American airports, where people can be in close quarters for extended periods of time.

Americans returning from Peru – after being under strict quarantine since March 16 – described how everyone at the Peruvian airport, including staff and travelers, was wearing masks, making the arrival in the U.S. all the more surprising.

“We went through immigration services [in the U.S.], the guy who processed us wasn’t wearing a mask, but we were,” Tina Kuo, who returned from Peru through Miami International Airport, told The Hill.

Peru had less than 100 cases when it closed its borders on March 16 and increased to at least 480 cases over the course of a week, according to figures compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

Americans returning from Guatemala, which has only a couple dozen cases, said airport attendants were methodically scanning travelers with infrared thermometers.

Tom Wojcik, who was part of a U.S.-chartered evacuation flight out of Guatemala, said he had his temperature checked at the airport by a Guatemalan attendant and handed a slip of paper with the degrees.

“Nothing was done with the papers” after arriving in the U.S., he wrote in an email. “It remains in my wallet. No one in Miami customs ever inquired about the status of our health, we were whisked through and sent to our respective destinations.”

He said he decided to self-quarantine for 14 days as a precaution.

Mary Fears, who also returned to the U.S. from Guatemala, said her impression of airport operations was that there was no pandemic in the U.S. But she did praise a Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agent for spacing out passengers in a waiting line to encourage social distancing at one point during her journey.

“It kills me to think about the number of cases and spread that could have been prevented with more precautions – especially as everyone races back to the US,” she wrote in an email to The Hill.

Her experience was echoed by dozens of other Americans who have returned to the U.S. in the past week.

The coronavirus has now been recorded in at least 175 countries, according to Johns Hopkins.

The State Department urges Americans to return from abroad as countries around the world close their borders.

The U.S. has banned foreign travelers from China, Iran, Ireland, the United Kingdom and 26 other European countries. Americans returning from those locations are subject to “enhanced health screenings.”

The State Department says that Americans returning from overseas are being screened for signs of coronavirus and advised to self-quarantine for 14 days.

“Any American returning from overseas will be subject to the screening that has been put in place at CDC recommendation, enacted by [Customs and Border Protection] and TSA at the airports,” a senior State Department official said in a briefing with reporters on March 24, calling the measures “very effective.”

“They’ll be given the same recommendations that any other American citizen is coming to – or any flight coming to the U.S. regarding recommendation for 14 days of self-observation, self-isolation,” the official said.

That stands in contrast with countries like Israel, which since March 9 has implemented a strict rule on anyone entering the country, requiring citizens and foreigners alike to submit to a two-week home quarantine.

A spokesperson for Customs and Border Protection (CBP) said travelers entering the U.S. are referred for enhanced screening with CDC or Department of Homeland Security personnel if they are exhibiting coronavirus symptoms or are arriving from countries under the coronavirus travel ban or identified as “high-risk.”

“CBP officers continue to identify and refer travelers subject to the presidential proclamations or who exhibit symptoms of COVID-19 to the CDC or DHS contract medical personnel for enhanced health screening,” the spokesperson said.

“Specific procedures may vary by location based on operational needs, the flow of passengers, and whether health screening occurs before travelers reach CBP primary inspection.”

Coronavirus carriers who are asymptomatic are at a low risk for passing the virus on to others, according to the World Health Organization.

The main symptoms are a fever, cough and shortness of breath and any one of those could signal a high enough level of the virus that increases risk of transmission.

Jason Farley, an infectious disease trained nurse epidemiologist in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Johns Hopkins University Schools of Nursing and Medicine, said the growing number of cases around the world makes specific guidance against select countries likely obsolete.

“We know that there’s spread going around the world and choosing a select number of countries at this point is becoming less of a public health intervention,” he said.

Instead, Farley said, promoting precautionary measures should be a focus, like promoting hand sanitizer and distributing paper masks for passengers transiting through airports to lessen the likelihood of viral spread through someone coughing or sneezing, similar to the precautions taken in Peru.

“We know with other bacteria and virus’s that putting a patient in a paper mask reduces the likelihood that they release those droplets that carry the virus,” he said. “Put everyone in that mask [at the airport] regardless of symptoms. That would help.”

Related video: How To Decide If You’ll Be Traveling This Summer (Provided by Veuer)

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