Skift Take

It's a strong sign that domestic tourism will continue to dominate over the holidays and into next year, particularly with the uncertainty looming over international travel with the Omicron variant.

The Omicron variant may have derailed some travelers’ flight plans and international trips, but there’s no stopping families and friends gathering and exploring their own backyards — by car.

The four-day Thanksgiving weekend’s road trips in the U.S. inched closer to 2019 levels, reaching just four percent below pre-pandemic levels, according to preliminary results from location intelligence provider Arrivalist’s Daily Travel Index.

When completed, the final data are likely to show an even smaller margin of just two percent below 2019 Thanksgiving road trip numbers.

“As predicted, automobile travel is back in full force this holiday season,” said Arrivalist founder and CEO Cree Lawson. “Early results demonstrate the resiliency of family travel, and we expect these results will continue moving closer to pre-pandemic levels throughout the week.”

The surge surpasses air travel, despite TSA screening 2.45 million passengers on Sunday alone.

The biggest surge in road trip destinations point to ongoing strong demand for the great outdoors — western U.S. states, Arrivalist’s data show, including South Dakota, Wyoming, North Dakota and Utah reached an astounding 30 to 48 percent increase over 2019.

With uncertainty looming over international travel, this points to another strong year of backyard drive tourism looking ahead at the Christmas break and 2022.

Tags: domestic tourism, domestic travel, road trips, thanksgiving, tsa

Photo credit: A van on the road in Utah as more Americans continue to travel by automobile Faungg / Flickr Commons