Slow Travel

Daytona Beach International Airport services have been disrupted by the Covid-19 Pandemic and may linger for months to come.

Business and leisure travel are expected to remain low over the next six months, according to the hospitality.net website.

MMGY Travel Intelligence released results from the second wave of the Travel Intentions Pulse Survey conducted April 4-11. The research for the U.S. Travel Association measures the impact of Covid-19 on U.S. leisure and business travelers.

Among people surveyed, just 31% expect to travel for vacations or other leisure purposes, and only 21% expect to travel for business.

“Americans' willingness to travel both domestically and internationally remains dependent on the slowing of the spread of Covid-19 and the reduction of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advisories,” the report states.

Key findings indicate 90% of travelers surveyed had some type of travel or travel-related activity planned prior to the Covid-19 outbreak and 80% of those either canceled or postponed those plans.

Lori Campbell Baker, executive director of the Daytona Beach Area Convention and Visitors Bureau, said, “The Covid-19 situation is definitely uncharted territory for all of us. We have been poring through data, trying to glean how our traditional (and new) audiences might react to it, and when they will be wanting to take that first trip, once this officially clears.”

The Daytona Beach area should be in a good position to recover from the pandemic, Ms. Campbell Baker said. “As a traditional drive destination, one with miles of wide-open beaches and plenty of green spaces and trails, we feel that this is exactly what vacationers will be looking for, when the time is right to travel again.”

Bob Davis, president/CEO of the Lodging & Hospitality Association of Volusia County, doesn't expect the convention business to rebound any time soon.

“Conventions and meetings and banquets are way off in the distance, maybe September, if by God’s grace we don’t have another second round of the epidemic,” Mr. Davis said. “No corporations in America (big or small) are going to send people away at this time because of the un-sureness of again spreading the virus.

“Regular tourists will lag behind the business tourists,” he said. “They don’t have disposable income. They’ve used all their money right now waiting on unemployment checks or government checks and are paying their mortgages, paying their food bill, paying their light bill, and are barely getting by. Therefore, they just can’t take off.”

He was also concerned about hospitality employees and the potential onslaught of people that have not been tested infecting them. Keeping pool furniture clean becomes even more important.

Mr. Davis added, “I’m not trying to be negative; I’m trying to be a realist.”

He doesn’t see a great summer resurgence but he does see visitors coming for weekends from surrounding counties. Mr. Davis also noted many employers may deny vacations to employees feeling like work has not been done due to Covid-19 and in essence employees have already been on vacation.

Debbie Meihls, executive director of the New Smyrna Beach Area Visitors Bureau, also was not optimistic for a quick turnaround.

“It has been a grim prognosis for April through September nationwide,” Ms. Meihls said. “The projections have been about a 10% occupancy level because of Covid-19. The sentiment out there is, while everyone is trying to protect the economy and all these small businesses and they want their livelihoods back, they’re scared of this.”

Georgia Turner, executive director of the West Volusia Tourism Bureau, said, “Probably the biggest blow to us has been Stetson closing. The majority of our business here has something to do with Stetson University. Unlike other people in Florida, summer is our slow season.

“We were trying to find a way to promote (summer months) anyway,” Ms. Turner said. “We came up with a program we are going to call '99 dollars for 99 days,’ because some of our hotels over here are starting to see people just coming for a night or two. It’s going to be everything from restaurant packages to boat rentals, all different kinds of things that are $99 for the summer. We are hoping that will be a price point for people who are watching money but also want to get out of the house and travel again.”

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