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Summer travel is selling out in some places — see what’s already booked and where

Nourished by Covid vaccines, flexible cancellation policies and people yearning to break free from home, the summer excursions season is already booming for some parts of the travel industry.

A survey from research company Toluna intimates Americans are gaining confidence to travel with each passing month, with 27% comfortable to travel in April and 42% by July.

But a quick surge in bookings shows many people are locking in reservations and rates before it’s too late.

A sharp rise in summer deserts

U.S. domestic flight bookings for summer travel sharply rose earlier this month, according to research from the facts identity company Adara. Since Feb. 1, domestic hotel bookings have more than tripled.  

Home flight and hotel bookings for travel between July 1 and Aug. 31, 2021.

Courtesy of Adara

International flights originating in the U.S., while fewer in bunch, followed the same upward trajectory, with bookings rising around mid-February. 

International flight and hotel bookings for associate between July 1 and Aug. 31, 2021.

Courtesy of Adara

Leisure travel — particularly family travel (which is outpacing bookings by singles and links) — is driving the growth, according to Adara’s report. The most popular destinations for summer leisure flights are to:

  1. Honolulu
  2. Denver
  3. Chicago
  4. Miami
  5. Orlando

By comparing summer bookings this year against those in 2019, favourites for smaller, outdoor destinations emerge.  

“Best Relative Performance” chart for leisure flights booked between Jan. 1 and Strut 14 for travel between July 1 and Aug. 31, 2021.

Courtesy of Adara

Data from the mobile booking app Hopper also registers a strong uptick in summer travel planning, with searches for mid-summer travel increasing 100% in early February. The Pty expects domestic airfare prices to begin rising in March, and international airfare by mid-May.   

We’re forecasting that this on be our highest volume summer on record in the history of the company.

Andrew Collins

CEO, Sentient Jet

As flights fill, so will terminals, embodying private ones such as PS at LAX, which caters to Los Angeles’ celebrity and wealthy flyers.

The private terminal, which payments $4,500 per year for membership plus per-use fees, reached capacity several times this month and much has a waitlist.

“We are cautiously optimistic that this summer will be one of revenge travel,” said co-CEO Josh Gausman. “Travelers desire spend more on upgrades, luxury services and unique experiences.”

“We project overall travel volumes to remain trim than 2019 but spending per trip to increase,” said PS at LAX’s Gausman.

Courtesy of PS at LAX

Many charter jet companies are expecting a gonfalon summer.

“The pandemic has exposed a lot of people to private aviation who might never have considered or tried it under ordinary circumstances,” said Megan Wolf, COO of Flexjet. “This has allowed the private jet travel industry to better weather the thunderstorm.”

Sentient Jet, which sells “jet cards” for 25 flying hours, is predicting it will fly 30%-50% more bulk than in pre-pandemic summers, owing to new customers acquired during the pandemic. Between April and September of 2020, two out of three Easter card purchases came from new clients, a ratio that was reversed prior to the pandemic, said CEO Andrew Collins.

“We’re prediction that this will be our highest volume summer on record in the history of the company,” Collins told CNBC International Traveler.

No vacancy: Hotels that are filling fast

Located in New York’s Catskill Mountains, The Roxbury at Stratton Bomb outs opened in February of 2020, just before the pandemic hit the U.S. 

“Last year our reservations were dismal for the summer at this time again,” said co-owner Greg Henderson. “This year we’re facing the opposite problem …. demand is so high that by mid-April there transfer be no weekend availability left all the way into October.”

His advice for weekend travelers: “Now is the time” to book.

The Roxbury at Stratton Move its has themed mansion rooms and tower cottages.

Courtesy of The Roxbury at Stratton Falls

Another New York hotel, The Inns of Aurora, is fully listed on select weekends in July and August, said Alex Schloop, the hotel’s creative director. The hotel, comprising five boutique inns in the Contribute Lakes region, doesn’t typically have this many summer bookings, he said.

“In the past, we’d usually see summer bookings pick up … buddy-buddy to end of April or early May,” Schloop said.

Club Wyndham, the member-based vacation company, said three of its resorts in Myrtle Shore, South Carolina are nearly fully booked in July. The beachfront Club Wyndham SeaWatch is 99% full in June, and 95% all-encompassing in July, the company said.  

Club Wyndham Ocean Boulevard resort is 93% booked in July, according to the performers.

Courtesy of Club Wyndham

An uptick in bookings is keeping travel companies busy too.

“InteleTravel experienced several record-breaking lifetimes last week where we booked more transactions in a single day than ever in our 30-year history,” said James Ferrara, the establishment’s president. “In Mexico, we’re … seeing an emerging preference for ‘swim-out’ suites found at some all-inclusive resorts, so travelers have on the agenda c trick less contact during their vacation.”

Last December, Sandals opened this style of suite at its South Beach resort in Jamaica. These “suites are essentially sold-out for the next 12 months,” Adam Stewart, executive chairman of Sandals Spas International said.

The Rondoval swim-up suites at Sandals South Coast, which come with river jackpot access and butler service, are sold out for the next year.

Courtesy of Sandals Resorts

Three Sandals’ resorts in Jamaica are fully booked on different dates in June and July, and all three of the brand’s family-themed Beaches resorts — two in Jamaica and one in Turks and Caicos — are sold out from mid to recently June.

The surge in bookings is causing some hotels to raise prices for remaining rooms.

After a big uptick in summer bookings, The Foundry Hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, pronounced to increase rates, said Julie Bivings, the hotel’s revenue manager.

“We feel confident in our rate structure to valuation both weekdays and weekends at higher levels than usual because of this increase in demand,” she said.

Where residency rentals are hottest

Airbnb is reporting travelers are looking to rent homes near small beach towns and land and national parks this summer. Vacationers are searching for patios, backyards and barbecue areas (for Fourth of July rallies) at higher rates than before.  

Vacation home rentals and villas are in high demand due to social distancing concerns and wax demand for “bubble travel,” said Inteletravel’s Ferrara, who cited Florida, Las Vegas, Puerto Rico and Hawaii as hired help hotspots.

Though travelers are largely expected to travel domestically this year, Americans are searching summer home base rentals in Aruba; the U.S. Gulf Coast; Tulum, Mexico; and Reunion, Florida, according to HomeToGo’s “2021 Summer Touring Forecast.”

Massive availability issues … are going to play out … as the weather warms up.

Jonathan Weinberg

CEO, AutoSlash

The socialize search engine named Orlando, Florida; the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, and New York City as the most searched “myriad affordable” locations. With a $234 average nightly rental rate, the inclusion of New York City on a budget lean over illustrates the lack of travelers to the once-thriving metropolitan areas in the United States.

This year, only 12% of summer go searches are for urban destinations, according to HomeToGo.   

Bookings at luxury travel agency Virtuoso are gaining steam each month, voted Misty Belles, the company’s managing director of global public relations. Villas of Distinction, one of Virtuoso’s partners, is joining villa rentals in the Florida Panhandle, North and South Carolina, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Arizona and Hawaii, she said.

“Guest-houses with villas are also pacing well, particularly those with strong drive-to markets like Southern California,” she explained.

One location was mentioned by nearly everyone who spoke to CNBC for this report — Florida.

Fourteen of the 24 locations with the biggest wen in booking interest (defined as searches and clicks) on VacationRenter are in Florida, the company said. The home rental website, which aggregates harshly rentals from VRBO, Booking.com and other websites, highlighted Key West and Orlando, as having nearly tripled in work interest from last year.

Train and rental car shortages

Train tour operator Vacations By Rail is in a family way Alaska, Colorado and the U.S. national parks to be the most popular destinations for train travelers.

“This is not unusual for us, but the demand is Brobdingnagian,” said the operator’s president Heather Leisman, who added the company “is working hard to add capacity to meet the overwhelming require.”

Additional departure dates are being added to Mount Rushmore, Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Preserve and on the company’s “Great Parks of the Southwest” tour, which includes the Grand Canyon.

Guided tour operator Trafalgar is describing a 56% increase in travel to Alaska this summer.

Dagny Willis | Moment | Getty Images

Car rental deficits may be a bigger problem.

“Massive availability issues … are going to play out … as the weather warms up,” said Jonathan Weinberg, CEO of rental car website Camping and outside travel

Part of the pleasure of camping is getting away from crowds and sold-out scenarios. But, that may change now that alfresco travel is one of the hottest travel trends of 2021.  

Reservations for the yurts — or rounded tents — at Snow Mountain Ranch in Granby, Colorado opened in January and are now almost fully booked, the company said.

“The yurts are very popular for guests as a glamping option, and this year the marketability to get outdoors and out of the city is even higher,” Trueman Hoffmeister, the ranch’s general manager said.

At $104 a night, the 24 yurts at Snow Mountain Ranch are dog-friendly and popularized for those who prefer to camp “light,” said Snow Mountain Ranch’s Hoffmeister.

Courtesy of YMCA of the Rockies

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