(KXAN) — A new poll from NewsNation/Decision Desk HQ Monday shows 55% of Americans are cutting back on travel as concerns about inflation, the economy and COVID-19 are threatening to disrupt summer vacation plans.
Of those who said they’ve changed their plans, 64% said they canceled their vacation plans altogether, with another 26% saying they moved them closer to home.
While the national travel forecast may be a bit gloomy, the numbers last year, and so far this year in Austin are better.
Occupancy rates in 2021 improved to 62.4%, up from 42.1% in 2020, according to the city’s marketing arm, Visit Austin.
So far in 2022 through April, city hotels have seen average occupancy of 68.2%, down from 76.4% during the same time frame in 2019.
Looking ahead, Visit Austin says at least 10 major conferences are booked at the convention center this summer, a key indicator as the city works to get back to the $9.3 billion visitors spent in 2019.
Visit Austin Vice President Steve Steve Genovesi talked with KXAN about the state of the tourism industry as it faces new and continued challenges trying to rebound from the start of the pandemic.
Tom Miller: How popular is Austin as a travel destination? Did things ever get back to normal after the pandemic?
Steve Genovesi: We’ve been fortunate compared to a lot of other destinations. People love to especially come on the weekends, make it a two or three-day vacation, All the festivals and events, it’s been popular. It hasn’t been as popular as pre-pandemic, but we’ve been very grateful to have, especially that weekend leisure traveler.
Miller: Are you seeing signs that people are starting to scale back their plans to travel here?
Genovesi: Not especially. We’ve definitely seen the incline, especially from January to now. The occupancy is at an all-time high compared to the pre-pandemic. I think people are ready to do face-to-face meetings and conferences. Ready for that pent-up demand of just people wanting to get out of the house. Come visit a city like Austin, spend their money in local businesses, see some live music. I think there’s there’s still high demand for that.
Miller: When you look at the things that are sort of working against you right now though, would you say, is it inflation and the economy, or still COVID-19 that’s having a bigger impact?
Genovesi: Certainly people have to weigh some of their concerns with those types of factors. However, we do see some studies where over 80% of the people still want to travel within the next six months. In fact, 50% want to travel in the next 90 days. So even the latest studies we’ve seen, people are still going to get on the road, hopefully, and traveled to Austin.
Miller: What has been the response from business owners in the business community who depend on these out-of-town visitors? Are they feeling optimistic? Or is there some caution right now?
Genovesi: We’re definitely hearing from our local businesses that they’re so grateful to see the visitors coming back. It’s a base that they needed to have to have a sustainable business. It’s so important, especially midweek time period, that’s where we really took the hit. And now we’re seeing these conferences and events coming back that will make the difference for the whole week.