Fourth of July travel not likely to overtake pre-COVID levels

Daniel J. Munoz//July 2, 2021//

Fourth of July travel not likely to overtake pre-COVID levels

Daniel J. Munoz//July 2, 2021//

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Despite COVID-19 restrictions being largely lifted and many Americans vying to travel, many of the nation’s industry and tourism insiders are not expecting this Fourth of July weekend to overtake pre-pandemic numbers.

Nationwide, the American Automobile Association expects 47 million Americans to travel by airplane or car–still higher than last year’s 34.2 million travelers in the midst of the pandemic, but trailing 2.5% behind record-highs from 2019.

Paula Twidale, senior vice president for AAA Travel, said the numbers were nonetheless impressive.

“Travel is in full swing this summer, as Americans eagerly pursue travel opportunities they’ve deferred for the last year-and-a-half,” Twidale said in a June 22 statement.

Many tourism insiders across the Jersey Shore – a multibillion dollar cash cow for the state – said they expect a drawn-out rebound as COVID-19 restrictions are lifted, the spread of the pandemic wanes and more people receive the vaccine. And casino, entertainment and event operators in Atlantic City forecast a 2021 summer rebound.

Jeffrey Vasser, executive director, New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism, expects fourth of july travel to be boosted by drivers in the Garden State.

Jeffrey Vasser, who heads the state’s Division of Travel and Tourism, said he anticipates this summer will fare better than 2020 when many COVID-19 restrictions were in effect and a vaccine had not yet been released to the public. But it will still be a struggle to overtake some of the record-breaking tourism metrics seen in 2019.

Numbers put out by the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which owns and operates Newark Liberty International Airport and the George Washington Bridge connecting New England with the rest of the country, tell a similar tale.

It’s estimating 4.4 million travelers will use the tunnels, bridges and airports PANYNJ oversees between July 1 and 5, still down from 2019’s roughly 5 million travelers.

Meanwhile there are expectations for 1.1 million air travelers at Newark Airport and the Port Authority’s two New York City airports, which, although showing a “slow yet steady growth of the return of U.S. air travel,” is nonetheless down 41% from the Fourth of July weekend in 2019.

United Airlines, which uses Newark airport as one of its major hubs, is reporting similar trends. It expects 2 million customers between July 1 and 5–just 70% of what the airline saw in 2019, but still “the busiest days since the start of the pandemic.” United anticipates 140,000 passengers to fly in and out of Newark Airport.

Wanna go for a ride

Vasser noted that the hesitancy for tourists to board an airplane, coupled with both restrictions and waning interest in international travel, means drive-in markets such as the Jersey Shore could have a leg up this summer.

AAA said it expects 43.6 million to travel by car this weekend, more than the 41.5 million in 2019.

“Months ago, President Joe Biden expressed hope that the Fourth of July holiday would ‘begin to mark our independence from this virus,’” reads a poll released June 28 by the Monmouth University Polling Institute.

“The Monmouth University Poll, though, finds a sizable number of Americans will be holding back on their typical holiday festivities this weekend,” the report said.

According to it, 54% of American adults said they plan to attend a July Fourth barbecue, compared to 69% in 2019, before the pandemic. Twenty-six percent of respondents said they would attend a fireworks event, compared to 51% in 2019. Eighteen percent of respondents said they would attend a July Fourth parade, compared to 28% in 2019.

A May report released by the state tourism office found that state tourism visitation dropped by 27% from a “record-breaking” 116 million visitors in 2019 to 86.4 million tourists in 2020.

Tourist spending dropped 37% from $46.4 billion in 2019 to $29.4 billion in 2020, breaking a decade of growth that began in 2009 following the Great Recession.