Industry experts see gradual shift in travel planning

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — With airline travel down drastically and with cruise ships still shut down, the COVID-19 pandemic can be very confusing for travelers.

With the Labor Day weekend coming up and the fall travel season not far behind, many are still questioning how the pandemic will affect their plans.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare visited a local AAA agency today where people were making travel plans.

The families and individuals at AAA on Monday, where making advance travel plans. Locally, we are venturing out, but cautiously and doing so with a “wait and see” approach. Many are deciding to travel closer to home by taking local or regional trips.

But a few are adventurous and boarding airplanes.

At Triple-A, travel advisor Susan Redmon is busy booking a trip for Carolyn Price. At agencies like this and others, surveys show travel is down across the board, but in recent weeks it’s rebounded.

“Right now cancellations have slowed down. A couple of months ago, our travel agents were working cancellations. Now though people are starting to look for deals in 2021 and 2021. That wanderlust hasn’t really gone away. Americans still want to travel we still want to get out and see the country,” Stephani Milani, AAA spokesperson, said.

Traveling on roadways this long labor day weekend will not break any records as it has over the last few years. And travel by air will be down as well, way down because of the virus. If you had to chose which would be safer? — personal preference will guide those decisions.

“However, airlines are doing enhanced cleaning and other protocols, that’s positive. The downside to traveling in your personal vehicle is you still have to get out to get gas or restroom breaks. So, you are still exposed to the germs of other people,” Milani said.

Carolyn Price has postponed her trip to Las Vegas, once this year, but not a second time.

“If I were going to stay in a casino or going to a casino, or staying for an extended period in a hotel which would require me to go to restaurants and stuff like that, I might rethink, but I’m seeing my son.  I feel comfortable flying in an airplane,” Caroline Price said.

With restrictions still in place for restaurants and almost any place where people are stuck inside, fall plans include outdoor adventure trips.

“Going hiking, whitewater rafting, on a picnic instead of going inside a restaurant,” Milani said. “So, a lot of people are looking to state and national parks to get outside to make those travel arrangements even if it is in their backyard. So things like hiking exploring a national park, those are great ways to travel and to enjoy the time you get off even through the pandemic.”

What needs to happen for Tennesseans to feel comfortable traveling?

In response to a AAA survey, 41% said when a vaccine for COVID-19 is available, another 37% said once-active virus cases start to decrease; while nearly 25% said when the travel advisors are lifted for the areas they want to visit. We might still be several months away from being normal.

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