Airlines say travelers are excited to return to Europe and the United Kingdom as plans to reopen borders progress, pointing to a spike in ticket shopping and bookings.
United Airlines saw a 19% increase in flight searches to Europe the day the news broke that trips to Europe might be a possibility for vaccinated Americans this summer. And “demand is through the roof” for the airline’s new flights to Greece, Croatia and Iceland, CEO Scott Kirby said last week.
Those travelers appear to be in the minority.
More than half of American adults – 55% – aren’t ready to consider international travel, according to a new Harris Poll survey. And more than half of those respondents (58%) say they aren’t sure if or when they will be ready.
This despite a surge in optimism about the pandemic recovery and an overall eagerness to board airplanes again, according to John Gerzema, CEO of The Harris Poll.
Gerzema said 67% of Americans say the worst of the pandemic is behind us, compared with just 33% in early January. And 50% of Americans say they miss traveling on airplanes, the highest figure in a year, he said.
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“Americans clearly want their lives back, and they want to get back and travel, but I think the (COVID-19) variants are causing a lot of hesitation to go abroad,” Gerzema said in an interview.
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Nearly three out of four respondents said the “fear of different variants” has an impact on their interest in traveling internationally. Not all of them were concerned enough to put off a trip, however: 23% of those surveyed said it wouldn’t deter them.
In early April, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention gave the green light for fully vaccinated Americans to travel at low risk but noted that international travel poses additional risks, including possibly spreading new COVID-19 variants. The agency and the U.S. State Department still have many countries at their highest alert level due to COVID.
The Harris Poll, conducted April 30-May 2 with a nationally representative sample of 2,096 adults, did not ask respondents about any other reasons affecting their willingness to consider international travel.
One traveler responding to the late April news that the European Union is expected to reopen to vaccinated Americans this summer pointed to a map showing a high rate of COVID infections in many spots around the globe.
“For the folks talking about traveling,” she posted on Twitter. “Them hot spots still a little too hot for me.”
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