. Travel Begins its Comeback in the Great Outdoors | Northstar Meetings Group

Travel Begins its Comeback in the Great Outdoors

As people look to get out of the house, DMOs remind travelers that safety is a shared responsibility.

Coastline of Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Coastline of Myrtle Beach, S.C.

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Travel and hotel spending is beginning to rise again in the United States, and it's starting in the leisure segment. According to a forecast from AAA Travel, Americans are expected to take 700 million trips this summer. And they're planning to take nearly all of those trips — 97 percent — by car. Travel suppliers are already seeing that trend.

"People all over the world are saying, 'I'm tired of being locked in my basement -- let me out," said Hilton president and CEO Chris Nassetta during a webcast this week produced by the National Retail Federation. "We're seeing a lot of drive-to business, a lot of places with beaches and outdoor space. People have cabin fever."

Chris Nassetta Hilton Hotel Leisure Rebound
Chris Nassetta, president and CEO, Hilton

Destinations with natural amenities like beaches, national parks, deserts and mountain trails are all eager to welcome back these travelers. "Dear Home, I just needed some space — wide, open space," reads the new "breaking up with your house" marketing campaign from California's Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau. The destination officially opened for business June 12.

"After spending a few months in self-quarantine, we think many people may welcome a break from their own homes to see new spaces," said Jeff Miraglia, chief creative officer of Greater Palm Springs CVB. "Additionally, we know that when travel resumes, travelers are seeking places where they can enjoy nature and outdoor recreation, which our desert valley has in abundance."

Summertime weather across the country and the lower COVID-19 transmission risks associated with outdoor activities are piquing the interest of the U.S. traveling public. But even with outdoor attractions, these destinations are going out of their way to reassure travelers that their facilities can provide a safe haven.

Joshua Tree National Park, near Palm Springs
Joshua Tree National Park, near Palm Springs Source: Greater Palm Springs CVB

Palm Springs, for instance, launched a destination-wide "Greater Together, Safer Together" pledge, a commitment to heightened health and safety protocols. Like the initiatives launched by countless hotel companies, the program touches on disinfecting protocols, physical-distancing guidelines, employee training and more — and the pledge has been signed by more than 200 local businesses, hotels among them.

While many similar programs have been launched across the country, destination officials are likewise eager to remind visitors that they share the responsibility to adhere to safety protocols.

"Successfully opening the beach at this time is going to require that everyone visit responsibly," explained Visit Myrtle Beach public relations and communications manager Julie Ellis in a new video promoting the South Carolina coastal city. "Social distancing guidelines are not just in place for hotels, restaurants and shopping, but also at the beach." Visitors should gather in groups of three or less or remain with household members, she explained, and remain at least six feet from others. While face masks aren't required in South Carolina, she added, they are recommended and should be worn in public spaces.

Visit California has created the "Respect" California Responsible Travel Code, a seven-point guide to respecting both the natural resources and local communities across the state. As the state gradually reopens, travelers are asked to embrace the following:

  • Roam responsibly by exploring the state thoughtfully and respectfully.
  • Educate oneself by doing research into local regulations and concerns, which is especially important in rural communities with limited health-care resources.
  • Safety first. Follow public health directives from government officials, including physical-distancing measures, and take all necessary steps to minimize health risks.
  • Preserve California by protecting and nurturing outdoor spaces and cultural icons, maintaining a light footprint and paying special attention to delicate ecosystems.
  • Embrace community by supporting local businesses and doing one's part to ensure long-term prosperity to destinations visited.
  • Celebrate culture by embracing traditions and practices.
  • Teach others by sharing these practices with fellow travelers, acknowledging the shared responsibility to protect the state.

"The tenets of our 'Responsible Travel Code' speak to both preserving California and to the safety of our communities and visitors as the state begins to reopen for leisure travel," said Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of Visit California.

For the hard-hit local tourism industries across the country, the most important thing is to avoid outbreaks and maintain the opportunity to safely host visitors. In the Visit Myrtle Beach video, Ellis concluded with a request: "Please help us keep our beaches open by following CDC guidelines for healthy travel and by being considerate of others."