Sizing Up the Rural-Urban Travel Divide: Who’s Up and Who’s Down


The pandemic has been hard on travel. According to the U.S. Travel Association, it has caused $386 billion in cumulative losses, but the pain hasn’t been evenly distributed. Cities, which are largely reliant on business and group travel, have suffered more compared to rural and outdoor destinations where it is easier to fulfill social-distancing needs. That sense of safety in extra space has tempted many leisure travelers to venture out on vacation.

Lodging results attest to the urban-rural divide. Short-term rentals were most popular in remote rather than city destinations this summer. According to the hotel benchmarking analysts STR, Inc., urban hotels are worse off compared to accommodations elsewhere, with occupancy down more than half in August nationally compared to August 2019. As a result, high-profile city hotels, from the Hilton Times Square in New York City to the Luxe Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, Calif., have closed.

“Leisure travel has been the demand driver that has returned more quickly,” said Patrick Mayock, the vice president of research and development at STR, noting that urban hotels “are more reliant on group and business travel.”

The rural-versus-urban contest for leisure travelers is still a losing game for most contenders; for example, rural places consider being down 20 percent a sign of relative health.

Ever the chameleon, Las Vegas continues to develop its leisure appeal, even though the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that several casinos on the Strip were the leading sources of possible Covid-19 exposures this summer. At the end of the month, the new Circa Resort & Casino, with the city’s largest sports book spread across three stories, is expected to open. The new art and event space AREA15 recently opened, requiring free reservations to control capacity, for visitors to its art installations.

Another popular city for meetings and events, Miami has come a long way since April, when 85 percent of tourism disappeared. In addition to losing business travel, Miami suffered when the United States border was closed — the city is popular with South Americans, in particular — cruises were shut down and cases of Covid-19 spiked over the summer. Now, hotel sales are about half compared to last year, thanks to the uptick in leisure travel.

“A big part of our tourism recovery has been to ask people in our own backyard, people within Florida, to drive,” said Rolando Aedo, the chief operating officer of the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau.

The bureau’s marketing campaign has focused on the city’s outdoor attractions, which include three national parks within an hour’s drive of South Beach, uncrowded beaches on Key Biscayne and kayaking amid the mangroves of a river estuary. Dozens of hotels are offering “Work & Learn” packages that offer rooms as day-use offices with access to resort amenities such as pools.

Back in January, when Dallas resident Murphey Sears, 38, planned to mark her 10th wedding anniversary, she and her husband discussed going abroad, or to Hawaii. By July, the parents of four secured grandparent babysitters and settled on a two-night staycation at The Joule Dallas hotel downtown.

“We needed to get away not only to celebrate ourselves but also to find some rejuvenation,” said Ms. Sears, a nonprofit development officer. “We felt so far away, even though it was 15 minutes from our house.”

Once a weekend afterthought, staycations are now viewed as a lifeline for urban tourism as cities from Boston to Los Angeles are encouraging residents to travel responsibly by staying — and spending — locally.

Most of those who have taken a vacation since the pandemic chose rural over urban areas for their getaways. Signs point to this pattern of fleeing population centers continuing. In a recent survey, Destination Analysts found nearly 40 percent of respondents who planned to travel this fall planned to visit small towns or rural destinations.

From the Adirondacks to northern Wisconsin, tourism authorities reported business doubling this summer over last. Even so, few will make up for the months of shutdown.



Sahred From Source link Travel

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