Despite hospital I.C.U.s once again buckling and death counts already surpassing 2020 numbers, public officials are hesitant to bring back lockdowns. The result is haphazard restrictions that vary by city: Chicago on Tuesday issued an indoor mask mandate, joining Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.; New York City will require proof of vaccination for indoor dining; while in Las Vegas, event organizers are excused from the state’s indoor masking requirement if they can prove all attendees are fully vaccinated.
But with sporting events forging ahead, restaurants continuing to seat diners both indoors and out, and music festivals, like the recent Lollapalooza in Chicago, deciding the shows will go on, the decision of whether or not to travel is now a personal one.
As a result, reactions in the face of the Delta variant are varied. Zeta Global, a marketing technology company that has been tracking American travel behavior, reports an inverse trend based on vaccination status: Hotel stays in states with high vaccination rates have dropped in recent months, and travel to hot spots like Florida has decreased among those who are inoculated against Covid-19 but has increased among those who are not.
Southwest and Frontier Airlines, meanwhile, have lowered their profit expectations this quarter as demand for flights diminishes. Many air carriers were banking on increased business travel this fall, which was only just beginning to rebound. But with companies, including Facebook and Coca-Cola, rolling back their return-to-office plans in the face of the variant, there is fear that business travel will return to a full-on stall.
“There are two distinct consumer behaviors that we’re observing. One is if you’re making a decision with your own dollars, and one is if you’re making a decision with your company’s dollars,” said Jan Freitag, senior vice president of lodging insights for STR, a hospitality analytics company.
Ron Bension, president and chief executive of ASM Global, the world’s largest event management company, said that since conventions and large-scale business events have such a long lead time, Delta simply extended the status quo created in March 2020. “Most everything had already been canceled. What we’re seeing is not a lot of rebooking yet,” he said.
For travel-starved Americans, the Delta variant has brought the return of a practice well-honed by the pandemic: waiting.