Thanks for Visiting!

Register for free to get the full story.

Sign Up
Already have a account? Log In

Holiday Travel 2021: Hotels Recovering, Airports Lag Behind

Shira Petrack
January 11, 2022
Holiday Travel 2021: Hotels Recovering, Airports Lag Behind

The rise of the Omicron variant coincided with the start of the 2021 holiday travel season, and many worried that the rise in cases would throw a wrench into Americans’ much anticipated travel plans. We dove into the foot traffic data to find out – how did the current COVID wave affect holiday travel?   

Hotels Fully Recovered Despite Circumstances

Despite the fourth and fifth COVID waves, location analytics data shows that the hotel industry has been on the path to recovery for quite some time. In July, at the height of the summer travel season, all the hotel chains analyzed showed impressive year-over-two-year (Yo2Y) growth in visits. The loss of international travel appears to have driven a boost to domestic travel. 

The Delta wave could have yielded a serious blow to the industry – but foot traffic data shows that it did not reopen the visit gaps for most chains. Instead, Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Best Western, and Comfort Inn & Suites merely returned to 2019 visit levels in August and September and were back to growth by October 2021. And although these chains took a slight Yo2Y dip in November – most likely due to the downturn in Thanksgiving travel – all were back to posting solid Yo2Y visit increases by December, with visits to Hampton Inn, Holiday Inn Express, Best Western, and Comfort Inn & Suites, up by 6.6%, 9.8%, 7.0%, and 10.8%, respectively, compared to 2019. 

Hilton Garden Inn and Courtyard by Mariott are recovering slightly slower, but these chains are still on a clear upward trajectory. In December, Hilton Garden Inn visits were only 0.7% lower than they had been in December 2019, while foot traffic to Courtyard by Marriott hotels was up 1.9% Yo2Y. 

Strong Yo2Y Growth in Weekly Visits – Except for the Week of Christmas 

Diving into the weekly visit growth for December uncovers an interesting pattern: all six chains analyzed experienced strong Yo2Y growth in weekly visits the week before Christmas as well as the week following, but Yo2Y hotel foot traffic was significantly down for the week of the holiday itself. 

This could mean several things. Maybe Americans actually enjoyed celebrating last year’s holidays with their local friends and family, and so opted to stay close to home for the holiday itself this year as well – and made up for it by travelling more intensely the weeks before and after. It could also mean that after missing their extended family during last year’s holiday, people who did travel this year chose to stay in their relatives’ homes – whereas they had previously stayed in hotels – to get a little more family time in.

Air Travel Slower to Recover

The hotel industry’s impressive recovery does not seem to be spilling over to airport foot traffic. With the exception of Miami International Airport, which registered a 14.2% Yo2Y growth in December visits and has been leading the pack in terms of visit recoveries all year, other major airports analyzed are still lagging behind their 2019 foot traffic performance. Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Chicago O’Hare, Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW), and John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) experienced Yo2Y visit decreases of 20.2%, 14.6%, 5.1%, and 13.3%, respectively, compared to December 2019.   

But just because the airport recovery is moving at a slower pace than the hospitality rebound does not mean that predictions for airports’ 2022 performance should be pessimistic. The strong YoY foot traffic numbers show the demand for air travel has risen sharply in the past year despite the circumstances and offers hope for a comeback. 

Little Correlation Between Airport and Hotel Recovery 

The Yo2Y weekly airport foot traffic data doesn’t show one clear pattern in the same way as the Yo2Y weekly hotel numbers did – but this lack of correlation is itself revealing. Indeed, location analytics show that the significant rise in hotel visits during the weeks before and after Christmas did not have any substantial impact on airport weekly visits. 

The lack of correlation between these two data sets means that even those Americans who are travelling seem to be avoiding airports. And since visits to train stations throughout the country are also down, the conclusion must be that more Americans are choosing to travel by car – likely because personal vehicles are the least risky options during these times of pandemic. And since it is unclear what impact this increase in road trips will have on domestic air travel long-term, now may be an opportunity for rest stop operators and other highway retailers to try out new strategies and diversify their product offerings as they try to win the loyalty of new types of customers who might not have been on the road pre-pandemic.

Will the hotel recovery remain steady? Will air travel return to pre-pandemic levels in 2022? 

Visit to find out. 

Get 3 brand & industry
breakdowns every week

Subscribe to the newsletter

Great! Prepare your inbox for data-driven insights...
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Get a Demo

Please enter your first name
Please enter your last name
Please provide a valid email
Please enter your email
Please enter company name

Thanks for reaching out!

One of our experts will be in touch soon

Try Free
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Digging Into Darden: Q2 2024 Update
2024 Retail and Dining Trends Update
TRU and avid: Midscale Hotels on the Rise 
Diving Into Kroger: A Strong Start to 2024 Mall Index: May 2024 Recap – Mall Visits on the Rebound Office Index: May 2024 Recap
2024 Memorial Day Recap
Las Vegas: A Tourism and Migration Deep Dive
Eatertainment Chains: Full on Food, Fun, and Foot Traffic
The Promise of Luxury Apparel
Catching Up With Ulta Beauty & Gap Brands
Ollie’s Bargain Outlet and Five Below: Q1 2024 Treasure Troves
CAVA Still Going Strong
Driving Success: Auto Parts Chains in 2024
Checking in With DICK’S Sporting Goods
Mother’s Day Shopping and Dining Trends Mall Index: April 2024 Recap – Retail Resilience Heading into Spring
Dollar Stores Still Gaining Momentum
Off-Price Apparel Chains After Q1 2024: Demographics in the Balance
Walmart, Target, and Wholesale Clubs Continue to Thrive
Home Improvement and Decor Check In Office Index: April 2024 Recap – Recovery Continues
Movie Theaters in Q1 2024: A Preview of Coming Attractions?
Let’s Get Physical: Fitness In 2024
Where Are Workers Returning to Office in 2024?
2024 Wins: Sweetgreen & First Watch on the Rise
A Full-Service Turnaround: Bloomin’, Dine, and Texas Roadhouse
Wendy’s and Denny’s: Breakfast and Late Night Dining Drives Success
Coffee Chains: Q1 2024 Update and What’s Changed Since COVID
Checking in with RBI and YUM!
Chipotle & McDonald's Serving Up Success
Wingstop & Shake Shack Continue Growing Their Reach 
Strong Start for Sprouts in 2024
Crocs’ Footwear Fairytale
Who Attends NCAA Final Four Events?
Eclipse Fever: How Did the (Retail and Hospitality) Stars Align?
Exploring Albertsons Companies’ Grocery Growth Mall Index: March 2024 Recap – Malls Rise Again Office Index: March 2024 Recap
Florida Spring Break Break-Up? Travelers Still Love Florida!
Provo-Orem and Ogden-Clearfield Emerging As Utah Hotspots 
Three Formulas for Experiential Retail in 2024
Aldi & Lidl Making The Cut
Texas Suburbs on the Rise
Exploring Luxury Hotel Brands’ Guest Segmentation
The St. Patrick’s Day Effect
How Can JOANN Make a Comeback?
Panera Bread Well Positioned for Possible IPO
Who Will Benefit From Family Dollar’s Downsizing?
Dave & Buster’s and Main Event Entertainment: Food and Fun for Everyone
Darden Brands: Location Analytics and Consumer Behavior
Nike and lululemon: a Strong 2023, Sprinting into 2024
Where Is Retail and Dining Foot Traffic Thriving in Early 2024? White Paper Recap – February 2024
Three Retail & Dining Chains That May Surprise in 2024
Specialty Discount Chains Rock Retail Therapy Mall Index: February 2024 Office Index: February 2024 Recap
Ulta Beauty Continues To Shine
First Watch Sails Into 2024
Hibbett Sports and DICK’S Sporting Goods: A Psychographic Analysis
Checking in With Discount & Dollar Stores
Peeking Behind The Curtain: Movie Theaters in 2023 and Beyond
Diving Into Brick-and-Mortar Eyewear
Getting Into Gear: Exploring The Auto Part Industry
Recapping Valentine’s Day 2024 Foot Traffic Trends
Fitness: A Strong Start to 2024
Dutch Bros. Continues To Percolate Visits
Super Bowl 2024:’s Postgame Foot Traffic Analysis
CAVA & sweetgreen Are On the Rise
Hats Off For Off-Price
Who Is Shopping at Malls?
Drilling Down Into Home Improvement
Walmart, Target, Costco & Superstore Space 2023 Recap
Catching Up With Shake Shack and Wingstop
Something To Chew On: Demographic Shifts at Steakhouse Chains Office Index: Looking Back at 2023
Recapping RBI & Yum! Brands’ 2023 Foot Traffic Performance White Paper Recap – January 2024
Who Shops at Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters?
Three Taco Chains to Watch in 2024
Starbucks and Dunkin’: 2023 in Four Data Points
Who Visits CVS and Walgreens?
Fashionably Frugal: Apparel in 2023
Catching Up With Fast Food
The Grocery Sector in 2023: An End-of-Year Recap
3 Mall & Shopping Center Trends for 2024
Bakery Chains Rising To The Top and Esri Partner to Deliver Geospatial Analytics
Tampa Tourism Trends
Going For The Green: The Changing Dynamics Of Country Clubs
Christmas Day Dining Recap
Major Urban Shopping Districts – Holiday Season Recap Office Index: December 2023 Recap
Recapping the 2023 Holiday Shopping Season White Paper Recap – December 2023
7 Retail & Dining Segments to Watch in 2024
Diving Into Holiday Season Favorites
Super Saturday and Christmas Eve Eve: A Winning Combination
3 Budget Grocery Chains Finishing 2023 On a High Note