DALLAS — For those who make a living in the travel industry, early February felt the same as January.
And January felt about the same as Dec. 2020, and all nine months before it.
But a noticeable difference is suddenly in the air, said Visit Dallas President and CEO Craig T. Davis.
“If we’d talked 30 days ago, I would have said, ‘Meh,’” Davis admits. “The world has changed dramatically in the last three weeks.”
As the number of vaccinated Texans and Americans increases and the number of daily new COVID cases decreases, Davis said surveys are beginning to show renewed trust in traveling.
“I’ll bet you that we’re having a very different discussion two months from now,” Davis said. “I’ll bet you that we’re going to see dramatically different looks out there with people traveling again.”
“They’re calling it revenge travel,” he said.
“People have been stuck in their house for over a year. They miss their family. They miss their friends, and many people have chosen not to see their loved ones.”
Davis said hotel occupancy rates in Dallas reflect a new increase in demand.
They fell to record low levels – in the single-digit percentages – during the spring of 2020.
The occupancy rate is now up to 35 percent and climbing every day, but people are interested in seeking out hotels that continue to follow COVID-19 safety protocols.
He said most Dallas hotels are not wavering on their mask policies, even though Texas Gov. Greg Abbott is lifting the statewide mandate on Wednesday.
2020 dealt the travel industry a bust like it had never before experienced.
“Some of the studies we had done compared it to the 2008 financial crisis and September 11, 2001 and found that it’s been nine times worse than a combination of both of them,” Davis said.
But a rebound appears to be underway – not just for visitors coming to North Texas but for North Texans seeking to take out their own revenge.
“If we were to announce Italy was opened up, I don’t have enough staff to handle everybody who would want to go,” said Steve Cosgrove, owner of Dynamic Travel in Southlake.
Cosgrove had to furlough his staff in 2020, but his firm is now experiencing a significant increase in bookings and calls.
Cosgrove said North Texans are planning spring break travel to popular sites like Broken Bow, Okla. and Las Vegas, and Arizona for Texas Rangers spring training. He believes the international “revenge travel” will begin as soon as travel restrictions are lifted.
“I’d say in the next 90 days the floodgates are going to open,” he said.
Davis said Visit Dallas is beginning to see a spike in calls about re-booking canceled conventions, and he believes the North Texas region is benefiting from its stature as a big city with lots of open spaces.
“I think that gives people comfort,” he said.
“We’re getting ready for the triumphant return of the city in our tourism space,” he said. “All good days ahead. I’m very, very confident.”
Cosgrove shares the optimism.
“The light at the end of the tunnel always just kept turning out to be an oncoming train,” he said. “But now I think it’s real.”