Large events help Raleigh tourism rebound, but business travel slow to return

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – While the return of flagship events has brought thousands of visitors back to Raleigh, tourism experts say the city won’t see pre-pandemic tourism levels until business travel returns.

Major events that were canceled or moved online last year are finally making a comeback.

Thousands of people are now pouring into the North Carolina State Fair and earlier this month, bluegrass lovers lined five city blocks in Raleigh for the International Bluegrass Music Association Festival.

Loren Gold, executive vice president for Visit Raleigh, said the city won’t hit pre-pandemic tourism numbers with vacationers or one-time events alone.

“Leisure does make up our mix but it’s probably about a third of our total mix,” Gold said.

With more companies taking operations online, Gold said it’s business travel that has been slow to make a comeback in large cities like Raleigh.

“Business travel took a huge spike downward because companies were not sending their people on the road,” Gold said.

Counties with the state’s largest cities saw some of the biggest dips in visitor spending last year. Wake County visitors spent more than 42 percent less in 2020 than 2019.

Still, the latest data from Visit Raleigh shows food and beverage tax revenue is up 36 percent from last year and hotel occupancy is also up by 48 percent.

“They’re all up, it’s just a matter of getting back to pre-pandemic, 2019 levels,” Gold said.

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United adding European destinations ahead of summer travel rebound


Chicago-based United Airlines is adding five new transatlantic destinations in Spring 2022 as it prepares for a potential bounce back in summer travel between the United States and Europe next year.

The expansion would be the largest transatlantic expansion in the company’s history and includes destinations in Spain, Portugal, Norway, the Spanish Canary Islands and Jordan.

“Given our big expectations for a rebound in travel to Europe for summer, this is the right time to leverage our leading global network in new, exciting ways,” Patrick Quayle, senior vice president of international network and alliances at United, said in a Thursday news release. 

United will be the first North American carrier to fly to the five new destinations.  

  • Bergen, Norway: Starting May 20, United will offer flights three times a week between New York/Newark and Bergen on a Boeing 757-200. 
  • Azores, Portugal: Flights between New York/Newark and Ponta Delgada in the Azores begin May 13 with a new Boeing 737 MAX 8. This will be United’s third Portuguese destination, along with flights to Porto (which return in March) and Lisbon (which are being operated from New York and are set to resume from Washington, D.C. next summer).
  • Palma de Mallorca, Spain: Travelers can fly from New York/Newark to the beach destination in the Balearic Islands in a Boeing 767-300ER starting June 2. United will offer flights three times a week. 
  • Tenerife in the Spanish Canary Islands: United is set to launch a new flight from New York/Newark to the Tenerife on June 9, offering service three times a week via a Boeing 757-200. 
  • Amman, Jordan: Flights from Washington, D.C. to Amman begin May 5 with service three-times-weekly with a Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. 

Tickets for Bergen, Azores, Palma de Mallorca and Tenerife go on sale Thursday, and Amman tickets should follow soon after. 

The airline is also adding new flights to five European destinations (Berlin, Dublin, Milan, Munich and Rome) “in anticipation of a resurgence in visitors” and relaunching seven routes that had been paused during the pandemic to Bangalore, Frankfurt, Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, Nice and Zurich, all of which are subject to government approval. 

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The expansion would follow the launch of a new air travel system in the U.S. in early November that will ease travel restrictions for fully vaccinated foreign nations.

While international flight capacity saw gains this year, it has a ways to go before catching up to pre-pandemic levels. International passenger demand dropped 76% between 2019 and 2020, the sharpest traffic decline in aviation history according to the International Air Transport Association.

Follow USA TODAY reporter Bailey Schulz on Twitter: @bailey_schulz

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Summer travel rebound continues at Orlando International Airport

The airport saw more than 3.5 million travelers.

Travelers line up to go through a TSA checkpoint at Orlando International Airport before the Memorial Day weekend Friday, May 28, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
Travelers line up to go through a TSA checkpoint at Orlando International Airport before the Memorial Day weekend Friday, May 28, 2021, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORLANDO, Fla. – Summer travel made an impressive rebound in Central Florida this past August.

More than 3.5 million travelers came through the Orlando International Airport. This is a 210% increase from last year, according to a release from the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority.

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Compared to numbers before the pandemic, traffic decreased by 15%.


Domestic travel increased by 196.73% in August, and international travel increased by 1,300% in the last year.

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Online Travel Update: Trivago and Kayak take different approaches to address metasearches; Fareport Holdings drops antitrust suit against JetBlue; Sonder prepares for expected rebound in corporate travel | Foster Garvey PC

In a Win for Travel Suppliers, Online Travel Company Fareportal Holdings Drops Antitrust Suit Against JetBlue
(“Travel Site Owner Drops JetBlue Antitrust Suit,” July 29, 2021 via Law360 – Competition) (subscription may be required)
Follow up to a story we’ve been following for the past few months…last week, Fareportal Holdings Inc. (owner of online travel site CheapOair) voluntarily dropped its claims against Jet Blue alleging that the airlines’ refusal to provide the OTA with access to JetBlue’s fares and other content (and instead directing travelers to book air travel directly with JetBlue) violated U.S. antitrust laws. According to Fareportal Holdings, its decision to drop the claims (without any settlement or compromise by JetBlue) was motivated by its decision to focus instead on its core mission of serving customers (PR agency speak for “our claims had no merit and were destined to failure.”)

Sonder Prepares for Expected Rebound in Corporate Travel
(“Sonder Targets Business Travel by Partnering With Expedia’s Egencia, TripActions and Others,” July 28, 2021 via Skift Travel News) (subscription may be required)
Alternative accommodations provider (and soon to be public company), Sonder, announced last week that it has reached agreement with travel management companies Egencia (soon to be part of American Express) and TripActions, and GDS providers Amadeus, Sabre and Travelport to make its largely apartment inventory available to the Travel Management Company (TMC)’s and Global Distribution System (GDS)’s corporate clients and platform users. While challenges remain for Sonder as it seeks to transition to corporate travelers (including satisfying the strict identification verification requirements often associated with short-term rentals that may require finicky corporate travelers to download a separate mobile application), Sonder’s move into the corporate travel segment mirrors the efforts of other short-term rental companies (e.g., Sentral f/k/a Daydream Apartments) seeking to appeal to non-leisure travelers.

European Commission Seeks Greater Transparency from Google
(“Google told more transparency needed in flight and hotel prices regulator,” July 28, 2021 via Phocus Wire)
At the urging of some of Google’s largest advertising customers in travel (including and Expedia), the European Commission is requesting changes to Google’s display of flight and hotel prices. Specifically, Google is being asked to provide travelers additional information on how Google’s search results are ranked (including details on how payments to Google might affect the results) and sufficient pricing detail to allow travelers to easily calculate final fares or room prices. Google has been given two months to make the requested changes.

Other News:

Ryanair Calls on Customers to Always Book Direct Amid Fraudulent Discount Scam and Overcharging by OTAS
July 28, 2021 via Travel Daily News
Ryanair called on customers to always book directly on the Ryanair website or App following further evidence of anti-consumer practices by certain Online Travel Agents (“OTA”s).

Charting the Rise of SPACs in Online Travel
July 27, 2021 via Phocus Wire
The travel unicorn landscape has been turned on its head in the past 18 months by the pandemic as well as the rise of public listings via special purpose acquisition companies (SPAC). Travel and Mobility Tech (TNMT), which tracks companies in the space, recently revealed the growth of unicorns in travel from 22 in 2018 to 45 at the end of 2019 and 49 at the end of 2020.

Expedia Down, Airbnb up for Bookings for Some Hotels in Europe and Asia
July 26, 2021 via Phocus Wire
An analysis by D-Edge Hospitality Solutions finds that while online travel agencies remain the dominant source of online revenue for its client hotels, in the last five years, the share of bookings coming through OTAs is down 11 percentage points in Europe and 14 points in Asia.

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EasyJet to raise about $1.4 bln to tap travel rebound – Bloomberg News

Sept 8 (Reuters)EasyJet Plc EZJ.L is planning to raise more than 1 billion pounds ($1.38 billion) through a share sale, as the British airline prepares to compete for customers amid a tentative return of leisure travel, Bloomberg News reported on Wednesday.

The budget airline’s plan to raise fresh funding by selling equity as well as debt could be announced as soon as this week, the report said, citing people familiar with the matter.

EasyJet declined to comment on the report.

No final decisions have been made, the report said, adding that the size, structure and timing of any transaction will depend on investor appetite and market conditions.

Earlier this year, the company had raised 1.2 billion euros from a seven-year bond sale.

In July, EasyJet said it planned to fly at 60% of its pre-pandemic capacity between July and September, compared with 17% of 2019 levels in the previous quarter, after it shed staff, cut its fleet and took on new debt to survive the crisis.

($1 = 0.7256 pounds)

(Reporting by Aishwarya Nair and Vishal Vivek in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)

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Norwegian Air hopeful of travel rebound but keeps cautious stance

FILE PHOTO: A Norwegian Air plane is refuelled at Oslo Gardermoen airport, Norway November 7, 2019.REUTERS/Lefteris Karagiannopoulos

OSLO (Reuters) – Norwegian Air forecast its bookings will rise in the months ahead as European travel resumes with the lifting of COVID-19 curbs, but the budget carrier refrained from providing financial outlook for 2021, citing uncertainty.

The company, which has cut its fleet by two-thirds following the outbreak of the pandemic, reported on Tuesday revenue of 591 million Norwegian crowns ($68.3 million) for the first half of 2021, down from 7.1 billion crowns in the year-ago period.

The airline emerged from government-backed bankruptcy proceedings in May and saw the number of passengers jump in July, although the volume was still less than a fifth of those flown at the same time two years ago.

“Forward bookings continue to increase in response to the relaxation of travel restrictions and the roll out of international vaccination programmes,” Chief Executive Geir Karlsen said in a statement.

“We expect to see this trend continue in the remaining months in 2021 and through 2022,” he added.

The current fleet of 51 aircraft will likely be fully utilised by the end of the year, up from less than 10 jets flown during April and May, the company said, adding that it aims to expand to between 60 and 70 planes next year.

Norwegian’s debt was reduced by around 80% during reconstruction as creditors took control, but the company also faces fresh competition from upstart carrier Flyr on domestic routes in Norway and some foreign destinations.

“Given the continuous uncertainty and ongoing impact on overall demand for air travel due to COVID-19, Norwegian does not provide guidance for 2021,” the board said.

($1 = 8.6535 Norwegian crowns)

Editing by Gwladys Fouche and Sherry Jacob-Phillips

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UPDATE 1-Virgin Australia to add 9 planes to fleet ahead of expected travel rebound

* Will bring fleet of 737s to 77 planes

* Had 85 737s in June 2020, handed back some to lessors

* Expects rise in travel demand as state borders reopen (Adds CEO statement, fleet details)

By Jamie Freed

SYDNEY, Aug 27 (Reuters) – Virgin Australia said on Friday it would add nine Boeing Co 737-800 planes to its fleet from October in preparation for an expected increase in domestic travel as vaccination rates rise and state borders reopen.

The airline said the increased capacity would bring its fleet to 77 planes and help it meet its target of gaining a one-third share of the domestic market, where it competes against Qantas Airways Ltd and Regional Express Holdings Ltd.

“These extra aircraft are an important part of our planning and ensure we’re ready to ramp up flying and meet the pent-up demand for domestic travel as soon as the opportunity presents itself,” Virgin Chief Executive Jayne Hrdlicka said in a statement.

Under the ownership of U.S. private equity group Bain Capital, Virgin has been rebuilding its fleet of 737s after emerging from voluntary administration last year and handing back many of its planes to lessors.

Virgin had 85 737s as of June 30, 2020, according to a report from administrator Deloitte that included four at its now-closed budget airline Tigerair Australia, so its fleet will still be smaller than pre-COVID levels.

The recovery in the Australian domestic aviation market has been hindered by recent lockdowns affecting more than half of the country’s population, which have led airlines to cut capacity and idle thousands of workers without pay.

Qantas said on Thursday it expected states to reopen their borders to locked-down New South Wales and Victoria on Dec. 1. Virgin said it aimed for all nine of the added planes to be in the air by mid-February. (Reporting by Jamie Freed; Editing by Jacqueline Wong and Gerry Doyle)

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After Rebound In Travel This Spring And Summer, Delta Variant Has Many Rethinking Their Trips; ‘It’s A Little Bit Of Déjà Vu’ – CBS Chicago

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.

READ MORE: Suspect Wanted On Warrants In California, Including One For Murder, Is Shot And Killed By Amtrak Police At Union Station

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.

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Amtrak sees boost from summer travel rebound

Beth Osborne, director of the D.C.-based nonprofit advocacy group Transportation for America, said downs and ups are likely as long as spikes in coronavirus cases continue. The good news, she said, is the pandemic is leading companies such as Amtrak to rethink services to attract new types of travelers.

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