Incoming operators inundated with calls from travelers wanting to visit for a vax: Travel Weekly
The surplus of Covid-19 vaccines in the United States has led to an unexpected windfall for one of the sectors most affected by travel: inbound tourism. And the influx, mostly from Latin America, is meeting strong demand for luxury villa and hotel rentals in already tight markets like Florida.
New data from ForwardKeys, a UK company that tracks global airline ticketing trends, shows international bookings have skyrocketed since the Biden administration gave permission for states to offer vaccines to visitors.
Texas, Florida and Arizona are seeing the biggest increase in bookings, the company said, with those in Latin America far exceeding 2019 levels.
“We are being criticized,” said Felix Brambilla, CEO of Overseas Leisure Group, a Miami-based luxury tour operator that before the pandemic focused on inbound tourism.
As the company moved during the pandemic to primarily overseas travel from the United States, Brambilla said its Sao Paulo office unexpectedly began receiving calls for vaccine tourism in the United States. United States as soon as states began offering vaccines to non-citizens.
Since then, he said, his company books between 40 and 50 trips a day from Brazil. Most of them, he said, are looking for a two-week vacation to Mexico or Costa Rica to meet the requirement to spend at least 14 days in a country with lower infection rates before to enter the U.S. Most want Moderna or Pfizer at two doses. vaccines, Brambilla said, so they also want to stay in the United States long enough to get both.
The result: With trips costing around $ 35,000 per couple, rental rates for hotels and private homes in popular destinations such as the Florida Keys have skyrocketed in response to domestic and international demand. For example, in the Keys, he said, some hotels that typically fall in the $ 350 range now charge up to $ 1,300 a night.
Brambilla said his company is also receiving vaccine reservations from Mexico, although due to the proximity and lack of a pre-entry quarantine requirement, many of these travelers take shorter stays and return. in the United States at the time of their second injection.
In Mexico, at least 50 Mexican travel agencies offer vaccination packs, according to the Milenio newspaper. The Mexican Association of Travel Agencies told the newspaper that more than 120,000 packages at around $ 1,000 per person were sold in the first two weeks.
And the president of private airline Fly Business, Elliott Ross Surgenor, told the newspaper he had increased the number of flights from Mexican airports to Texas from three to nine to meet demand from travelers seeking vaccines. .
Similar packages are also being promoted in Costa Rica, said Mauricio Castro Lines, director of TAM Travel Corp.
While his company, an inbound tour operator for Costa Rica, does not sell vaccine trips, he said many Costa Ricans are indeed heading to the United States for vaccines.
According to ForwardKeys, within two weeks of states announcing vaccines open to visitors, bookings from all international markets to Texas rose from 58% to 91% of 2019 levels; bookings to Florida fell from 44% of 2019 levels to 67%.
Bookings from Latin America to Texas, meanwhile, fell from 80% of 2019 levels to 330%. Area bookings to Arizona have jumped from 126% of 2019 levels to over 220%. And tickets to Florida from Latin American countries jumped from 47% to 121% of 2019 levels.
The largest increases are in bookings to Texas from Peru, which are 684% above 2019 levels. Bookings to Texas from Costa Rica are up 338%, followed by Mexico, which is ahead of 2019. 317%.
“As the pandemic progresses, we are seeing how closely immunization is linked to reviving tourism,” said Olivier Ponti, vice president of Insights for ForwardKeys. “Last month we saw countries like Greece and Iceland, which declared themselves open to vaccinated visitors, gaining far more bookings than competing destinations. This month we are witnessing the emergence of what you might call vaccine tourism, which involves traveling to a specific country. destination to receive a vaccination. ”