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PRAGUE (Reuters) – Thousands of Czechs have booked a 15-hour direct train journey to Croatia where the coronavirus-weary travellers look forward to summer holidays on the seaside.
On Tuesday, the first Czechs left for what has long been their nation’s favourite foreign vacation destination following the easing of travel curbs imposed to contain the coronavirus.
The RegioJet train and bus service said it has sold more than 30,000 tickets for the route it plans to operate until September.
From July 11, trains will go daily, each carrying up to 560 passengers, offering both seating and sleeping sections, with the starting price of 590 crowns ($24.95) for one leg of the journey via Slovakia’s Bratislava and Slovenia’s Ljubljana.
Direct train service was dropped two years because it was loss-making. Its resumption was a welcome change for travellers keen to avoid the high-season traffic jams that motorists risk.
“I have done this trip several times by car…and I see this as very comfortable and a little bit of an adventure. I like it and I think this is a new way to get to the sea,” Jan Vrana said aboard the train with his wife and son.
Croatia has long been the first choice of many Czechs going abroad for holiday except during Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 when neighbouring Slovakia, formerly in one state with the Czech Republic, took the top spot.
Travelling to the Adriatic Sea has been a long tradition for the Czechs, dating to the early 20th century when they were part of the Austrian-Hungarian empire together with Croatia.
Czechs also gravitated to Croatia during the Cold War era – ending in 1989 – when it was part of federal Yugoslavia, then a communist country like their homeland but with personal freedoms as it was outside the Soviet-dominated Eastern Bloc.
For many Czechs, Yugoslavia also became a conduit for emigration to the West as its borders with Austria and Italy were more porous than those along the Iron Curtain.
(Reporting by Jiri Skacel Writing by Robert Muller; Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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Consistent conversations about systemic racism, oppression, and bias against Black people are leading to a flood of content to highlight and support Black films and TV shows. Major streaming services like Netflix, Amazon Prime, and HBO, along with endless lists of Black movies, shows, and documentaries (among other mediums) highlighting the reality of our experiences are all over the place—for now. Some of them are cringe-worthy suggestions, like The Help and Green Book, which prioritize pacifying White guilt, lean into White savior territory, examine Blackness through a White gaze, or sanitize the truth about privilege and oppressive standards in America.
Others are powerful, moving narratives that give people a window into the complexities of Black life. As a Black woman, it is disheartening to see that most of the suggested content centers on our pain. Authentic Black joy that isn’t seeped in stereotypes or associated with proximity to Whiteness is a vital part of our experiences. To engage with or only promote narratives about Black despair is to not see us complete human beings and, in the case of Hollywood, to continue the vicious cycle of profiting off of our pain.
Cultivating joy and humor is a part of our self-care, our culture, and our resistance—a revolutionary act in a world that is inherently anti-Black. Joy interweaves in the midst of our pain, rage, fear, and hope. It stands on its own in moments where we come together to sing, dance, celebrate, relax, and disconnect from a constant fight for rights that should be inherent. Black joy is a slice of heaven in a world that gives us hell.
These Black films and TV shows bring our joy to the forefront in stories filled with humor, life lessons, good times, and friendship.
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This 1978 musical reimagines the Wizard of Oz with an all-star Black cast. Watching shy schoolteacher Dorothy (Diana Ross) explore a magical land with new friends, including Scarecrow (Michael Jackson) is pure joy. The original songs are funky and fun and the energy is jubilant while managing to touch on social issues that are relevant to Black history and culture.
B.A.P.S. (Black American Princesses)
New Line Cinema
B.A.P.S. is fun “fish out of water” comedy about Georgia waitresses and best friends Nisi (Halle Berry) and Mickey (Natalie Desselle), who dream of opening a hair salon and restaurant. They travel to Los Angeles for a music video and end up caring for a millionaire in Beverly Hills. Nisi and Mickey are vibrant, funny, caring, and extremely talented.
Predictably, the movie was slammed by White critics who called the leads “garish homegirls.” However, this film shows that there’s more than meets the eye. Nisi and Mickey get to have the “rags to riches” arc that’s usually reserved for their White counterparts. The ladies have fun, build unexpected bonds, set firm boundaries with their lovers, and have a lasting impact on those around them before getting the life of their dreams.
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There are plenty of movies about a group of White friends getting together for outlandish adventures (example: The Hangover). But, it’s not as common to see four Black girlfriends coming together to party, explore, and celebrate for an unforgettably wild vacation.
The Flossy Posse—Sasha (Queen Latifah), Ryan (Regina Hall), Dina (Tiffany Haddish), and Lisa (Jada Pinkett Smith)—turn New Orleans upside down as they drink, club, and fight their way through the city. Some unresolved issues and drama ensue but the ultimate message is about dynamic power of friendship and love between Black women.
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Beyoncé’s 2018 Coachella performance was not only groundbreaking as she was the first Black woman to headline; it also celebrated Black college life and culture. Beyoncé gave nods to Black fraternities, sororities, and bands through alternate versions of her songs. She gave us Nefertiti aesthetics, step shows, Black power messages, and Black feminist knowledge with a sample of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk. Homecoming dives deeper into how she crafted this masterpiece of a set.
There are quite a few Black “struggle love” movies that include an inordinate amount of pain, infidelity, and drama. The Photograph isn’t one of them. It’s a brilliant love story about Michael (Lakeith Stanfield), a journalist who falls in love with Mae (Issa Rae), a museum curator. The film tells two love stories at once and is a dreamy and passionate exploration of the joy and elation of falling in love.
Waiting to Exhale
20th Century Fox
Black friendship is a healing balm. This classic film, which follows four Black women’s tight-knit friendship through personal and professional ups and downs, will always reign supreme. Savannah (Whitney Houston), Bernie (Angela Bassett), Robin (Lela Rochon), and Glo’s (Loretta Devine) a quest for healthy love, which, along with the film’s music and all the little nuggets of joy they experience together, make for Black joy personified.
A lot of people love Friends, but Living Single is the originator. The show follows Khadijah (Queen Latifah), Synclaire (Kim Coles), Max (Erika Alexander), and Regina’s (Kim Fields) friendship as they live in close proximity to each other.
Like most ’90s Black sitcoms, Living Single features a lot of laughter, love, famous appearances, a great theme song, and a few iconic moments of this quartet loving life and having fun. There are some deeper issues explored throughout the series but there’s a lot of happiness and humor, too.
There are a lot of Black coming-of-age stories, but The Wood is special. It taps into what it’s like to grow up in a disenfranchised California city, but the story primarily centers on a few guys’ nostalgic look back at childhood. Roland (Trent Cameron), Slim (Duane Finley), and Mike (Sean Nelson) get into a few misadventures: Mike standing up to a gang member, going to a school dance, teenage obsession with sex, and falling in love. There are a lot of sweet, funny moments in this comedy celebrating the Black joy of boyhood.
The world can never make enough movies or shows about Black girls. Our experiences, beliefs, and personalities are as wide ranging as any of our female counterparts from other races. Chewing Gum follows Tracey, a 24-year-old who grew up in a strict religious environment. She wants to explore the world, have sex, and enjoy adult life. Sadly, there are only two seasons of this show, but they are both great.
Coming to America
Eddie Murphy is known for hilarious movies featuring a lot of Black star power. Coming to America is all that and more with adult fairy tale-like story featuring a kind and idealistic African prince who comes to Queens, NY to find his queen. Akeem (Eddie Murphy) and Semi (Arsenio Hall) may be over the top, but supporting characters like Lisa, Cleo, and a group of trash-talking barbershop employees feel quite grounded. There are quotable lines, unforgettable moments, and a lot of raunchy humor.
Last Holiday is another movie about a Black woman realizing her dreams. A health diagnosis encourages Georgia (Queen Latifah) to quit her job, take all of her money, and go on a dream vacation. She takes fun risks, indulges in self-care, and charms an entire resort full of people along the way. The film combines holiday delight with the musings we all have about what we would do if we threw caution to the wind.
Miss Juneteenth is a heartfelt story about Black motherhood and the impact of Juneteenth on Black Texans. Former Miss Juneteenth Turquoise is relatable to many young moms with dreams deferred and plans derailed.
She bonds with her daughter Kai after she enters in the same scholarship pageant years later. The film doesn’t aim to teach viewers some grandiose lesson. It’s simply one woman’s journey into reflection as she lives her normal life. Miss Juneteeth is beautiful and features some truly lovely mom-daughter moments.
Akeelah and the Bee
There’s nothing that sparks joy quite like an underdog story. Akeelah is an avid speller from Los Angeles who stands up against preconceived notions and odds to make her way to the Scripps National Spelling Bee. The film deals with a lot of issues including race, educational systems, self-esteem, friendship, and social stigmas, among others, while sparking a lot of joy every time Akeelah advances forward.
Black Panther brought people around the world a lot of joy. It was empowering and affirming to see Black people leading the most socially and technologically advanced nation in the world, for women to be effective leaders, and to see the film’s overall celebration of different cultures in Africa. It’s rare to see a superhero movie or series that centers on Black characters, and Black Panther proved that our stories can score big with audiences and box offices alike.
Yes, this is a Hallmark holiday movie. But, honestly, is there anything more joyful than a Christmas flick? The plots are mostly predictable, the romance is super sweet, and there’s always a lovely ending. A lot of network Christmas movies don’t have Black women protagonists, but Christmas Everlasting stars Tatyana Ali as Lucy, a woman who reconnects with her past. She returns home to claim property in her sister’s will and learns a lot more about her family history (and love) along the way.
The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Speaking of Tatyana Ali, most people were first introduced to her in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. There’s probably not too many ’90s kids who don’t know all about how Will’s life got flipped and turned upside down. In The French Prince, Will’s antics are just as colorful as his clothes as he pulls the Banks family into a ton of schemes. The Fresh Prince also shows that Black people face some of the same issues despite their socioeconomic status.
This one is for the kids (and kids at heart). Netflix’s Motown Magic follows eight-year-old Ben who uses a magic paintbrush to bring the street around him to life. The show features songs from iconic Black artists like The Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, and Michael Jackson, thereby bridging the gap between generations. There aren’t nearly enough magical/fantasy shows with Black protagonists so this is a true treasure.
Juju: The Web Series
More Black witches is never a bad thing, especially when they are the focus of the story. The Juju webseries follows three millennial besties who discover that they are witches. There’s a lot of great humor, self-discovery, real talk, and fun friendship moments in this narrative on top of some magickal moments.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Miles Morales is the definition of joy. This Afro-Latino kid’s journey towards becoming a hero in his own way is heartfelt, striking, and inspiring for so many fans. Miles’ heart, laughter, self-doubt, and triumph is reflective of how the world should want to see Black boys not only survive but thrive while being their authentic selves.
As usual, this list isn’t exhaustive, but it’s a start. There’s a lot of layers to the Black experience. We want to see more of our joy, wonder, fantasy, and magic being pushed to the forefront, because they matter just as much as our pain. Black joy is powerful and worthy of being seen.
Featured Image: 20th Century Fox
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Inspira TRAVEL TRENDS VIRGIN ATLAN TIC · 2020: THE RISE OF THE CONSCIOUS TRAVELER We all know that today’s consumers are investing in experiences over material things, and the travel industry has been a direct beneficiary of this trend. In fact, a study of Millennial consumers found that behind only saving for an emergency and housing, banking money for a vacation is a top priority. Just as the desire to invest in bucket-list experiences grows, the way consumers evaluate and select destinations continues to evolve. As we enter the next decade, consumers are becoming increasingly conscious about the impact of travel on the environment and are endeavoring to forge deeper connections with the people and places they visit. Here, we explore the emerging travel trends of 2020. SECOND CITY TRAVELERS Although New York, Paris, and London remain top global destinations, consumers are seeking out lesser-known destinations to avoid overtourism. Are interested in services that suggest locales where an increase in tourism would have a positive impact 60% 54% Want to play a role in reducing overtourism Would swap their original destination for a lesser-known alternative if it would have less of an impact 51% A GRAND ADVENTURE FOR ALL THE JOURNEY IS THE DESTINATION Travel is truly a family affair. Multi- generational travel is growing in popularity — and it’s not just for kids. 64% Interested in taking a historical train ride such as the Orient Express 75% of consumers agree that vacations are a great time for generations to spend time together 61% 42% say they choose pet-friendly holiday destinations Intend to take a longer route to experience more of the journey 56% Wouldn’t mind spending extra time traveling if they were taking a unique mode of transport MIND THE GAP TOP 10 EMERGING DESTINATIONS It’s not just Millennials! Older consumers are healthier – and wealthier – than • Gzira, Malta ever before and view retirement as an • Ninh Binh, Vietnam opportunity to take a “gap year” to travel. While this trend is currently resonating with those near retirement, 52% of all travelers agree that you can take a gap • Salta, Argentina • Seogwipo, South Korea • Jodhpur, India year at any age. • Swinoujscie, Poland 47% • Takamatsu, Japan Say they intend to become more adventurous once they’re retired • San Juan, Puerto Rico Zabiljak, Montenegro 19% • Yerevan, Armenia Of global retirees are planning a gap year Sources: Booking.com Travel Predictions 2020, Lending Tree 2017 Millennial Savings Study Inspira Marketing Group / 50 Washington Street, Norwalk, CT 06854 Dan Sullivan, Chief Engagement Officer [email protected] / 203.856.0173 INSPIRA CREATES EXPERIENTIAL MARKETING ACTIVATIONS THAT DRIVE ENGAGEMENT BEYOND THE FOOTPRINT. Contact us to learn more.
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Coronavirus updates: Mike Pence to visit Arizona; Massachusetts reports zero deaths; California to ‘tighten’ restrictions
New U.S. coronavirus cases continued to increase, multiple states were reporting new highs and White House task force leader Vice President Mike Pence was headed to Arizona on Wednesday amid that state’s surge in cases and hospitalizations.
On Tuesday, 44,766 new cases were confirmed nationwide on Tuesday, according to a tally kept by Johns Hopkins University. Other media tallies put the case count between as high as 48,000, which would be a record for daily totals. The nation’s top infectious disease expert warned that number could reach 100,000 per day without swift action.
California Gov. Gavin Newsom will announce “aggressive” coronavirus restrictions Wednesday ahead off the Fourth of July holiday weekend. Texas, which set new marks for positive cases and hospitalizations, shut down bars. So did Arizona, while Florida banned alcohol consumption at them.
International travel to European countries will resume Wednesday, allowing travelers from 14 countries but excluding Americans.
Here are some major developments:
New coronavirus infections could increase to 100,000 a day if the nation doesn’t get its surge of cases under control, Dr. Anthony Fauci told Congress on Tuesday. “We need to deal with it quickly,” he testified. “It could get very bad.”
Arizona gyms are defying Gov. Doug Ducey’s order to close again. One gym has filed a lawsuit calling the order “arbitrary and irrational.”
Americans will not be allowed to travel to European Union countries when the bloc opens up to international visitors July 1, the European Council announced.
Hospitalizations are rising in 12 states and about 130 counties are “hot spots,” the CDC chief says. See a list of which states are pausing reopening plans here.
Federal officials blast American Airlines for not blocking out middle seats: ‘We don’t think it’s the right message’
📈Today’s stats: The number of confirmed cases globally has surpassed 10.4 million, and the death toll was more than 511,500. There are more than 2.6 million cases in the U.S. and over 127,400 deaths, according to the Johns Hopkins University data dashboard.
📰 What we’re reading: Restaurants in California, Arkansas and Michigan have temporarily closed because some customers refuse to wear face masks and have harassed employees. Face masks “aren’t a choice. It’s part of public health code,” one restaurant owner said. Here’s how three restaurants have taken a stand amid the ongoing pandemic.
Our live blog will be updated throughout the day. For first-in-the-morning updates, sign up for The Daily Briefing.
‘Affordability crisis’: Pandemic puts squeeze on housing supply
Housing inventory has dropped 29% from a year earlier through the week ending June 20, according to Realtor.com. More than 40% of buyers who purchased their home during the pandemic reported entering into a bidding war on at least one home, according to recent data from Clever Real Estate, which surveyed 1,000 homeowners from May 31 through June 2 who made their purchase between January and May. Javier Vivas, director of economic research for Realtor.com, said low mortgage rates have made buying a home attractive – if you can find one.
“Housing demand has increased beyond expectations,” he said. “When you combine that with historically low levels of inventory, it’s a perfect storm for increased competition and an affordability crisis.”
– Jessica Menton
PPE shortage still an issue as cases rise
Physicians and nurses still face a dearth of supplies as coronavirus cases continue to rise nationwide. Nearly 45% of those surveyed by the American Nurses Association said they experienced protective gear shortages as late as May 31. Almost 80% said their employers encouraged or required them to reuse disposable equipment. The USA TODAY Network analyzed dozens of government reports and interviewed more than 50 experts — including health care administrators, traders and lawmakers — about the PPE shortages, especially the disposable masks that cost anywhere from a few pennies to a dollar.
“The magnitude and speed of the spread of coronavirus just overwhelmed the entire supply chain from A to Z,” said Mike Crotty, an Ohio-born, Shanghai textile broker with more than 35 years in the business. “It was a madhouse.”
– Dinah Voyles Pulver, Katie Wedell and Erin Mansfield
Mike Pence to visit Phoenix as Arizona grapples with COVID-19 surge
Vice President Mike Pence will travel to Phoenix on Wednesday, continuing his tour of the nation’s new coronavirus hotspots in an effort to calm growing concerns that leaders in Washington and Arizona have bungled their response to the crisis. Dr. Deborah Birx, a member of the White House’s coronavirus task force, is accompanying Pence on his visit to the 2020 battleground state. Amid the growing concerns over the spread of the virus in Arizona, Pence scrapped a planned visit to Yuma and a campaign event in Tucson. Pence and Birx are set to meet with Gov. Doug Ducey, public health officials and health care representatives.
The trip to Arizona follows their stop in Dallas on Sunday, where Pence, who chairs the task force, sounded an optimistic note about the battle to slow down the spread of the coronavirus. He sought to assure leaders there that they had the “counsel, the resources, and the support to meet this moment.”
– Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Arizona Republic
Lockdown baby boom may be baby bust
Predictions of a possible baby boom as couples nationwide have had an abundance of alone-time together may go bust amid a spike in birth control requests. Digital health clinic Nurx says they’ve seen a 50% increase in new patient requests for birth control and a 40% increase in emergency contraception requests. The company serves over 250,000 patients. Worth noting: A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that pregnant women may be at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19 compared with non-pregnant women.
“Whether to have a child for the first time or another child … that’s something people are feeling it isn’t the time to explore,” said Nurx spokesperson Allison Hoffman.
– Adrianna Rodriguez
Massachusetts reports zero COVID-19 deaths for the first time in months
Massachusetts reported zero COVID-19 deaths Tuesday for the first time in months, according to data in the state’s Department of Public Health’s daily release.
The data also shows a downward trajectory in all four of the state’s public health indicators: the seven-day positive test rate, the three-day average of hospitalized patients, the number of hospitals at surge capacity, and the three-day average of deaths. Gov. Charlie Baker said at a press conference Tuesday the state will exempt travelers from Rhode Island, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, New York, and New Jersey from the state’s two week self-quarantine advisory. “COVID-19 will not be taking a summer vacation,” Baker said, referencing the Fourth of July weekend. Massachusetts has reported at least 8,054 fatalities from the pandemic – the first death on March 20.
– Elinor Aspegren
California Gov. Gavin Newsom will ‘tighten’ coronavirus restrictions
California Gov. Gavin Newsom will announce new coronavirus restrictions Wednesday to “tighten things up” as cases surge in the state. He said the state will be “a little bit more aggressive as it relates to guidelines on Fourth of July.” California has nearly 223,000 infections with close to 6,000 deaths reported. However, officials are concerned about the hospitalization rates, which increased by 43% in the last two weeks.
“The framework for us is this: If you’re not gonna stay home and you’re not gonna wear masks in public, we have to enforce, and we will and we’ll be making announcements on enforcement tomorrow,” Newsom said at a news conference Tuesday.
Senate passes surprise extension of application deadline for PPP loans
The Senate passed a surprise extension for the Paycheck Protection Program to August 8 by unanimous consent Tuesday night, just hours before it was set to close down. The legislation would extend the deadline for when the PPP can accept applications for forgivable loans. The bill gives the Small Business Administration the authority to continue approving loans to businesses that apply.
However, the House of Representatives will need to pass the legislation, and send it to President Donald Trump for his signature to keep the money flowing. Both chambers of Congress are set to adjourn for recess by the week’s conclusion. The massive loan program has helped keep millions of small businesses afloat during the coronavirus pandemic and already has disbursed more than $500 billion to roughly 4.8 million businesses, most of them mom-and-pop outfits such as nail salons and retail stores.
– Savannah Behrmann
What we’re reading
Coronavirus baby boom may actually be a ‘baby bust’ as experts see spike in birth control orders.
Arizona, Michigan gyms balk at closure orders; 1 owner files lawsuit
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey is in a showdown with many gyms that are refusing to follow his Monday executive order that they close until at least July 27 to help slow the spread of COVID-19 as hospitals near their capacity to care for everyone who gets sick.
The complaint, filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, calls Ducey’s closure “arbitrary and irrational” and seeks to keep the 18 Mountainside gyms in Maricopa County open for their 90,000 members. “It’s not about Mountainside,” CEO and Founder Tom Hatten said Tuesday. “It’s about business and our choices and our civil liberties and where our leadership is taking us at this point in time.”
In Michigan, gym owners are openly defying Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s executive order to close, even after police issued a few criminal citations.
“We’re open because I think it’s unconstitutional,” said Don Larson, owner of a Gold’s Gym on Hoover Road in Warren. “My members need a place to be to stay strong and healthy, and it keeps their immune systems high.”
– Ryan Randazzo, Arizona Republic; JC Reindl, Detroit Free Press
FDA: Coronavirus vaccine needs to be at least 50% effective to be approved
The Food and Drug Administration said on Tuesday that a coronavirus vaccine would need to be at least 50% more effective than a placebo in preventing or at least decreasing the severity of COVID-19 in order for them to approve it. That threshold “would have been what I would have chosen since that is around what flu vaccines do that save lives,” said Barry Bloom, an immunologist and professor of public health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. “Greater would, of course, be ideal.”
With the FDA being under an Emergency Use Authorization rather than the typical process, some have expressed concern that the agency might face pressure from the White House to approve a COVID-19 vaccine as quickly as possible.
The first vaccine to be approved must go through the full FDA licensure process, including Phase 3 clinical trials to show it protests people against disease or infection
– Elizabeth Weise
More on the coronavirus from USA TODAY
Coronavirus Watch: Sign up for our daily coronavirus newsletter here. And come together and share the latest information about coronavirus, coping with lifestyle changes and more by joining our Facebook group.
How do you stay safe on flights during the pandemic? Experts say flying is safer than it was earlier in the COVID-19 pandemic because of airlines’ changes, but travelers can take precautions, too. Here’s how.
Contributing: The Associated Press
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: COVID cases update: US hits 127K infections; EU’s 14 safe countries
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This Fourth of July holiday weekend won’t be the total washout that many in the travel and hospitality industries feared only a few weeks ago because of the impact of Covid-19.
But it’s safe to say that it will be unlike any seen in the last 50 years. Indeed, it could be, in relative terms, the weakest Independence Day travel period since the end of World War II, when America, a nation of 331 million people today, had a population of only 141.4 million.
No one expects the total number of vacationers this coming weekend to come close to the 43 million person-trips taken over the Independence Day holiday period last year, according to AAA. That was the second-most ever recorded for that particular holiday.
This year, though, AAA is not forecasting any number of holiday travelers for this coming weekend. It’s the first time since it began issuing such forecasts in 2000 that it has not produced a big holiday travel forecast number. The pandemic and its effects, and the patchwork of uneven state restrictions on travel and travelers simply makes it too hard to predict with any accuracy how many people will venture more than 50 miles away from their homes this holiday weekend.
Still, the number of Independence Day holiday travelers this year is not likely to reach the 31 million travelers who collectively set the most recent low-water mark back in 2009. (Back then many Americans were hurting financially as the nation remained near the trough of the so-called “Great Recession.”)
AAA reports that in 2009 26.4 million Americans traveled over the Fourth of July by car, 2.1 million by plane and nearly 2 million by other means (trains, cruise ships and buses, mainly). While it’s hard to predict how many will travel this year over Independence Day weekend by car we know that none will be traveling by cruise line because all cruise lines serving U.S. ports effectively have been shut down through the end of the year. And airlines, with the addition of several thousand more flights to their flight schedules effective this week, still can offer only 35 percent as many flights as they offered at this time a year ago. Meanwhile air passenger demand remains stuck around 25% of what it was a year ago.
On Sunday, June 28, the Transportation Security Administration counted 633,810 passing through its airport security check points around the nation (and some of those weren’t passengers, but airline crews and other personnel). On June 28, 2019, 1.6 million people passed through TSA airport checkpoints.
Car travel, however, promises to be very popular over the coming holiday weekend. International travel will be down dramatically because of the paucity of international flights and the stiff regulations imposed by most nations either blocking visitors from the United States or forcing them into long quarantine periods of they do fly there. That, along with continuing concerns about contracting Covid-19 while flying or passing through airport terminals means travel by car is even more likely during this Fourth of July holiday period than it is in most years.
Research done by Descartes Labs, which uses data from individuals cell phone locator information, shows that in many states people are traveling nearly as much now as they were before the pandemic began. But they’re doing more of it by car than before.
Mike Warren, Descartes Labs’ co-founder and chief technology officer, said that American’s overall mobility – as measured by their movements (tracked with their permission via their cell phones) declined dramatically in March and April as Americans stayed home to avoid the disease. “Since then their general mobility has gotten back up to almost the baseline (before Covid-19),” he said. “But airline travel is recovering much slower.”
In fact, general mobility – which as Descartes Labs uses the term includes not only people’s willingness to travel long distances but even to take short trips around town to go to work, shop for groceries, run errands, go to a restaurant or pay visits to friends and family nearby – has returned to pre-Covid-19 levels in more than two thirds of the states, Warren said. But long distance mobility has remained depressed. General mobility remains depressed, too, in several states like New York and New Jersey that were especially hard hit in the spring with Covid-19 cases and deaths. “And now it’s dropping again, to some degree thanks to the current outbreaks in places like Texas, California, Arizona and Florida,” he added.
That does not, however, means people won’t be traveling at all this coming holiday weekend. It’s just a bigger percentage of them than usual will be doing it by car. And the overall total of travelers will be down. Yet that’s creating some new opportunities for destinations that one wouldn’t normally expect to be vacation hotspots. According to TravelClick, a unit of travel booking technology giant Amadeus, the top five states for July 4th hotel books are: South Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, South Carolina and Montana. Each has distinctive set of tourist attractions and vibrant tourist economies. But none have major amusement parks or other major attractions like those in perennial top tourism destinations like Southern California, South Florida, the Gulf Coast, New England or New York City. But many of the attractions in those places are either closed (beaches in Southeast Florida, Texas and Southern California, plus amusement parks) or in states that have been pandemic hotspots or slow to re-open.
“We’re seeing upticks in places like Salisbury, MD, and in Montana; not places we’d normally expect to see at the top of our list of hot destinations,” said Katie Moro, TravelClick’s vice president of Data Partnerships. “And the beaches we’ve seen closed in the last few days along Florida’s eastern coast really haven’t been where we’re seeing a lot of increased demand for this upcoming holiday and, really the rest of the summer. We’re seeing that more in the panhandle and across the Gulf Coast.”
But the most notable change that Moro said she and her team at TravelClicks are seeing a dramatic reduction in the so-called “booking window.” Over the last 30 years or so leisure travelers have shown a strong tendency to book their holiday travels weeks and weeks, or even months in advance. In some cases that’s to lock-in the most in-demand hotel or other accommodations at popular destinations, to save money by buying the cheapest airfares that are hard to get once summer begins, or to stake out a period in the summer when no one in the family can schedule other events like camps, sports tournaments or work trips. This year, though, families were frozen out of the advance planning game by the uncertainty related to Covid-19.
“What we’re seeing is a very short-term booking window,” Moro said. “Out past 14-days (before the strip starts) we’re not seeing booking activity at all. Zero to seven days (in advance) is our strongest booking window. That’s a total shift from the historical pattern. And we’ve seen it since May.”
Again, the obvious reason for that shift is consumers’ jitteriness about the spread of Covid-19. In April, a time when many people book their summer vacations, travel – by any mode – came to a near halt because of the pandemic. And few people were secure enough to commit money in advance to accommodations or to even leave their houses, let alone, go on a long-distance trip. But, at least until the last week or so as the number of new cases reported began to shoot back up in some places, people had become a little more willing to book a quick, previously unplanned trip.
But that does not mean that the market still isn’t being dominated by fear and uncertainty related to Covid-19.
According to polling done by IBM Watson for two tech-related companies called Influential and Killi, more than half of all American remain afraid to fly, 45 percent are worried traveling on business and 35 percent are planning to not take a vacation this year. Yet, perhaps a bit incongruously, most American are now eager and open to participating in “everyday” activities away from home, but only if they’re “local.” For example, 48 percent of the nearly 1,500 people surveyed said they’re excited about being able to go the movies and 70 percent are now comfortable eating out in a restaurant.
Killi, based in Toronto, provides customers a data security app that hides their personal data from companies that mine such data on the Internet and gives those people the ability to sell some or all of their data to specific companies willing to pay for it. Influential is an app-based service that helps companies attract the attention of, and win support and endorsements from social media “influencers” with large online followings.
Some of the highlights for their May polling regarding American’s levels of comfort with certain aspects of travel include:
· 50.71 percent said they are somewhat or very unlikely to travel by air for pleasure right now; while 35.21 percent said they’re somewhat or very likely to take a pleasure trip by air
· 52.11 percent said they are either somewhat or very likely to take a vacation or pleasure trip; 35.21 percent said they are somewhat or very unlikely to take such a trip
· 46.48 percent said they are somewhat or very likely to stay in a hotel while 36.62 percent said they’re somewhat or very unlikely to do so
· 70.42 percent said they’re somewhat or very likely to eat at a sit down restaurant. Only 9.86 percent said they’re very unlikely to do that while another 9.86 percent they’re somewhat unlikely to dine at such a restaurant
· Ironically, only 59.16 said they’re somewhat or very likely to eat at a quick serve restaurant, where theoretically they would have significantly less time exposure to potential Covid-19 infection than they would at a sit down restaurant.