CHARLOTTE – AAA reports that 2022 travel bookings are off to a much stronger start compared to this time last year. A new quarterly AAA survey shows that traveler confidence is on the rise in the Carolinas. Sixty-three percent of respondents in North Carolina and sixty-two percent of respondents in South Carolina report feeling comfortable traveling now, a significant increase from 36% (NC) and 41% (SC) in early 2021.
According to the survey, traveler confidence is driven by:
- The COVID-19 vaccine
- Belief that the risk of contracting the virus is the same wherever they go
- People are more knowledgeable and less afraid about the virus
- The implementation of enhanced safety measures
- Reports that COVID-19 cases and deaths are declining
“The rebound in traveler confidence is translating to strong bookings at AAA’s travel agency,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Not only are we seeing more cruise and tour bookings than this time last year, but members are spending more money on their trips. While some of this is the excitement of getting back to traveling, there are those who have more money to spend after traveling less in recent years. Additionally, we’re beginning to see customers apply travel vouchers they may have received after postponing a previous trip, due to the pandemic.”
Popular Trends — Lingering Concerns
Destinations and Cruising
Haas says the U.S. and Mexico were the most popular countries for travelers to visit in 2021. This year, as restrictions loosen and confidence grows, AAA Travel is seeing a renewed enthusiasm for trips to the Caribbean and Europe. Also, as cruising returns for a full season, AAA expects destinations like Alaska to regain popularity.
“This will be the first full year of cruising since the pandemic began,” Haas continued. “Last year, cruising began building back in the summer with most ships at reduced capacity. This year, we expect to see things begin to normalize with more itineraries and cabins becoming available on river and ocean cruising.”
Despite their excitement, AAA’s survey shows some lingering concerns related to COVID travel restrictions. Thirty-four percent of respondents in the Carolinas say it’s challenging to understand the COVID-related requirements for international travel. As a result, it’s affecting their willingness or ability to plan a trip.
“There’s that segment of people who really want to go, but are hesitant because they’re unclear about COVID requirements or stressed about encountering issues while traveling,” Haas said. “For anyone who has those concerns, we encourage you to talk to a travel expert. We’ve found that when travelers speak to AAA travel advisors, they feel more confident about their plans and prepared for their trip, so they can fully enjoy themselves. For those travelers who prefer to do some of their own research, we’ve enhanced our website to enable users to check COVID travel requirements for trips all over the world.”
Self-serve tools on AAA.com
Travelers who visit AAA.com/Travel-With-Confidence can easily view travel requirements based on their vaccination status, destination and date of travel. AAA’s website and mobile app also provide a breakdown of the requirements for various modes of travel.
AAA’s Top Three Travel Tips
Plan Every Part of your Trip
- Know the destination’s COVID-19 restrictions and guidelines
- Understand if these restrictions will limit certain amenities
- Take photos of important documents such as passports and vaccination cards
- Bring a COVID-19 test in case you become ill while traveling
Work with a Travel Advisor
Travel Advisors can:
- Explore options and construct itineraries that best suit your interests, time and budget
- Provide the latest COVID-related restrictions or requirements by destination
- Serve as the traveler’s advocate if you need to reschedule or cancel plans
- Help find alternate flights or accommodations in case of a flight cancellation or weather-related disruption
Consider Travel Insurance
While policies and coverages vary, travel insurance can provide reimbursement for:
- Nonrefundable payments if you must cancel your trip due to illness (including COVID-19)
- Medical emergencies or treatment (most U.S. health care policies do not cover you abroad)
- Lodging, transportation and food expenses incurred due to flight cancellations
- Flight delays of as little as three hours
- Lost, delayed or damaged luggage
AAA’s travel survey shows that 48% (NC) and 42% (SC) are more likely to purchase travel insurance than before the pandemic. However, only 26% (NC) and 33% (SC) feel very well informed about travel insurance. “Now more than ever, travel insurance offers very relevant benefits before and during travel. We also know that traveler satisfaction goes up meaningfully when they have a thorough conversation about Travel Insurance with AAA Travel Advisors,” Haas said.
AAA offers new emergency medical support plan for travelers
For travelers who want a safety net, but do not need medical insurance or to insure the cost of their trip, The Auto Club Group is now offering its members a protection plan that provides round-the-clock emergency evacuation and medical support services, in case they become sick (even with COVID-19) or are injured while traveling the world. The new product called “Worldwide LifelineTM” is exclusively available on AAA.com at a discounted rate to members of the AAA club’s 14 state territory. The services are provided by Global Rescue, a leading provider of medical, security, evacuation and travel risk management services.
Worldwide LifelineTM is different than Travel Insurance
Travel Insurance policies are typically purchased to cover a single trip and are priced to insure the cost of your trip, offer medical insurance coverage, and provide financial reimbursement for trip cancellation or interruption.
Worldwide LifelineTM is an annual membership program, like AAA membership, designed to provide on demand emergency rescue, medical and travel support whenever and wherever you need it without having to file claims or report your trip in advance.
To learn more, visit AAA.com/GlobalRescue