RAPID CITY, S.D. — Certain things come with the holidays, like trees and bright lights and maybe some presents, but also the trip for many to go see loved ones.
However, during the COVID-19 pandemic, that trend has changed with around three-quarters of Americans choosing to stay home for the holidays.
Travel experts say during this holiday travel season, which runs from December 23 through January 3, travel is down nearly 30 percent in South Dakota, consistent with the national average.
Out of seven great plains states, about 7.1 million people were expected to travel, the fewest since 2002. More people choosing to travel by automobile, as opposed to airplane, all for the sake of safety.
“We’re seeing air travel take the biggest hit, people feel just a little bit more comfortable getting in their vehicle, feeling they can be just a little more safe you know, during COVID, traveling in a vehicle,” said Rhonda Keller, the District Manager for AAA of South Dakota.
For those planning to travel and stay in hotels, Keller says to pack Lysol and disinfecting wipes to wipe down all the surfaces that could have been touched by someone else.
National plane travel is down about 60 percent, raising concerns for the industry. However air travel in and out of Rapid City Regional Airport has stayed above the national average throughout the year.
But during the holidays, they’re seeing a dip.
“We do anticipate that maybe we’re not going to have as strong of a December as we maybe had for November but we’re still optimistic that we’ll be close to that 50 percent range,” said Patrick Dame, the Executive Director of the Rapid City Regional Airport.
A not so jolly time for the travel industry but experts are hopeful for a return to normalcy.