Blog Post

Insight: Utah Is Positioned Well for Summer Travel Amid COVID-19

By: Jennifer Leaver

Note: The opinions expressed are those of the author alone and do not reflect an institutional position of the Gardner Institute. We hope the opinions shared contribute to the marketplace of ideas and help people as they formulate their own INFORMED DECISIONS™.

Since mid-March, the travel and tourism industry has been on a wild ride. Stay-at-home orders amid the COVID-19 outbreak have taken a huge toll on the airline industry and other transportation-related businesses. Restaurants and bars have been forced to close or temporarily suspend their dine-in options, while hotels and short-term rentals have experienced mass reservation cancellations. In April, jobs in Utah’s leisure and hospitality sector had decreased 43.6% from the previous year and 46.1% from the previous month.

With the arrival of June and an improved understanding of COVID-19 transmission, summer travel forecasts are more optimistic. Travel forecasters anticipate that this summer we’ll see a greater emphasis on domestic travel (vs. international), driving (vs. flying), leisure (vs. business), and short-term rental bookings (vs. hotels). They also expect travelers to pursue outdoor activities away from urban areas in the name of social distancing. This is good news for Utah’s summer travel industry, which typically attracts domestic auto leisure travelers in search of outdoor recreation.

I find the anticipated short-term rental market rebound interesting, and perhaps an indication that people are ready to travel again—but prefer to stay in safe and separate spaces. A recent AirDNA report examined the status of American vacation rentals pre-COVID through the end of 2020. When viewed visually, February through May bookings form a