Summer travel was essentially a bust in 2020 because of the pandemic. Although Florida’s “safer at home” order had expired, there was nowhere for people to go. Attractions were closed. Restaurants were offering limited services. Even state and national parks weren’t ready to welcome visitors.
Fast forward to summer 2021. The travel outlook is strong, perhaps stronger than it’s ever been. Tripadvisor notes that 67% of Americans are planning a summer trip. AAA also forecasts strong numbers, noting its top early summer travel bookings include Orlando, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Anchorage and Colorado Springs.
Three factors will drive the summer travel season:
In addition, airport data also shows why summer travel will be so strong this year.
In 2021, passenger traffic at Southwest Florida International Airport dropped 4.8% from March to April. That period represents the traditional end to “high season” in Southwest Florida. By comparison, traffic dropped 25% from March to April in 2019 and 31.8% during that same timeframe in 2018. Data from 2020 was substantially impacted by the pandemic and makes year-over-year comparisons statistically difficult to interpret.
The Fort Myers airport reported 1,107,004 passengers in April 2021. That nearly matched the record for April passengers set in 2019.
Passenger growth isn’t limited to commercial airlines. Tenants at Naples Airport also note an uptick in travelers flying privately. Elite Jets, for example, has been exceeding its pre-pandemic flight totals since last summer, when more affluent individuals began recognizing the safety and value in private charters. They are flying to destinations across the U.S., including the Rocky Mountains, New England, Napa Valley and Hilton Head.
READ MORE: Top domestic destinations for summer 2021
Three Florida cities – Orlando, Key West and Miami Beach – ranked among the top five in Tripadvisor’s list of the most popular destinations for Americans this summer. Southwest Florida also will be a hotspot for out-of-state travelers, as well as local residents enjoying staycations.
Beyond the region’s beautiful beaches, travelers who enjoy the outdoors can visit the Everglades National Park and Big Cypress National Preserve. Ding Darling National Wildlife Refuge, Ten Thousand Islands National Wildlife Refuge and Rookery Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve offer ample opportunities for bird-watching and animal-spotting.
One aerial tour that’s grown in popularity is Elite Jets’ “Escape to Ussepa Island.” Half-day and full-day helicopter tours allow guests to relive Old Florida while visiting this exclusive private island.
For many this summer, the feeling is a lot like the joy we felt as children on the last day of school. We’re all ready to let loose and enjoy summer vacation.