BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — As more Americans continue to get their COVID-19 vaccines, the travel industry is picking up after a near-total halt at this time last year.
The pandemic has redefined how to travel safely. Local travel experts say the travel changes are here to stay. Clay Ingram with AAA Birmingham said people are already booking trips, many are planning ahead too, hopeful the travel bans and shutdowns are behind us.
“It’s going to be a big travel year,” said Ingram. “It already is. We’re already booking things and a lot of these packages and resorts are filling up very quickly.”
A major component in people’s travel plans: vaccines. The state health department is urging anyone traveling to be fully vaccinated beforehand.
“If you are unvaccinated, then your risk of contracting COVID goes up,” said Assistant State Health Officer Dr. Karen Landers. “You certainly have to continue to redouble your efforts to reduce contracting the disease.”
If you’re traveling outside of the U.S. a vaccine isn’t enough. In order to return, you need proof of a negative COVID-19 test that was taken within 72 hours of your return flight.
“I do think it’ll be different in how it’s done,” said Christen Perry, a travel agent with Classic Travel Connection. “I think it’ll take adjustments on all of our parts, just like after 9/11. We didn’t have all the requirements that we have to go through security.”
Perry said as restrictions have eased, her job has gotten a lot busier.
“We have never seen the numbers of bookings of what we’ve seen in the last three months,” said Perry. “And we’ve seen records.”
Over the last 14 months, many airlines, resorts, and travel booking companies have changed their policies because of COVID-19. Travel experts believe those changes are here to stay.
“This pandemic will change the travel industry forever,” said Ingram. “Everything from booking policies to cancellation policies…”
According to AAA, gas prices are expected to rise in May. Ingram doesn’t believe it’ll be enough to keep people from taking their summer trips.