CHICAGO (CBS) — From no bookings to bustling lobbies to tiptoeing around the delta variant, more than 1,000 travel agents are in town to swap tips and stories about the pandemic.
The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) Global Convention had the Morning Insiders wondering about the state of travel right now.
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CBS 2’s Lauren Victory got the inside scoop on the industry.
A wave of fresh air washed over the Godfrey Hotel rooftop this April. Vaccinations and the virus under control finally brought back customers – especially ones on business.
“We definitely started to see an incline in events happening for companies, which was amazing,” said Sandi Robinson, the Godfrey Hotel’s Director of Sales and Marketing.
Nationwide data shows hotel occupancy going up and up from Spring into Summer.
The Illinois Department of Commerce & Economic Opportunity said hotel occupancy in June was 56.4%, followed by 64% in July.
Then, the delta variant came to town at the end of July.
“It’s a little bit of déjà vu,” said Robinson. “Corporate [clients] is saying, ‘Alright. This is becoming a little bit too dangerous.’”
That knocked out 30% of Robinson’s late summer and early fall events.
The number one request for those who kept to their schedules, or are thinking of booking now? Outdoor space.
Flexibility, a.k.a. the ability, to cancel helps too. It’s a luxury enjoyed by tourists right now as well.
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“People can literally cancel with confidence, and know they’re not going to lose their money,” CBS News Travel Editor Peter Greenberg said.
No airline change fees and free hotel cancellations are fueling more last-minute leisure travel, he said.
“Most people like to plan their vacations six months to a year ahead. That’s not happening anymore,” Greenberg said.
How does Robinson handle it?
“It’s a jigsaw puzzle honestly,” she said.
Of course, her 20-plus years in hospitality has her accustomed to accommodating customers.
Rising COVID cases, the return of mask mandates, who knows what will happen next?
One thing the travel industry can always sell: Chicago’s beautiful Riverwalk and stunning views.
Illinois tourism dropped by almost 50% in 2020 from 2019, according to the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.
“We remain optimistic that, with our continued progress made in expanding vaccinations, marketing Illinois as a safe place to work and visit, and bringing businesses and their workers back into the economy – that we will restore confidence and once again resume our place as a top choice destination for travel in the U.S. and around the world,” DCEO spokeswoman Lauren Huffman said.
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A nationwide spike in road trips prompted Illinois’s Office of Tourism to promote car travel to our state through the “Time for Me to Drive” campaign starting in May. Spots have aired in seven states around the Midwest.