Dear Tripped Up,
I know that Europe will soon open to fully vaccinated Americans, but are there any cities or communities in the United States that are encouraging vaccinated people to visit? I would like to travel again, but I’m not ready for a long flight. And I’d also like to support domestic tourism-reliant communities — especially those encouraging vaccinations. Hetal
In a May survey of 1,200 U.S. adults from the tourism market research firm Destination Analysts, nearly 59 percent of respondents said they were unlikely to travel outside the country until the pandemic is resolved. That’s a big difference from a year ago — when that figure was around 75 percent — but the data suggests the vast majority of trips this summer will be domestic.
As for the key question — Where to, first? — there are plenty of tourism-reliant domestic destinations that are encouraging visitation and vaccines in ways large and small.
Los Angeles, which drew 43 million domestic visitors in 2019 and is projecting 35 million this year — and where more than half of residents ages 16 and over are fully vaccinated — has a slew of new initiatives to jump-start tourism. As part of its new #StartYourComeback campaign, Los Angeles Tourism has assembled dozens of deals on hotels, spas and other local businesses, and partnered with CLEAR, the biometric technology most commonly seen at airports: Soon, attendees at local events and large meetings may be screened upon entry by CLEAR’s Health Pass, which can store Covid test results and vaccination records.
New York City, meanwhile, has made its vaccines available to any U.S. resident ages 12 and older — locals and out-of-towners alike. In May, the city announced an initiative to administer Johnson & Johnson’s single-shot vaccine from mobile vaccination sites stationed around popular sites like Central Park and the American Museum of Natural History. A February 2021 report from NYC & Company, the city’s tourism promotion agency, and Tourism Economics, an Oxford Economics company, estimates this year’s domestic-visitation numbers to be around 32 million (down from around 53 million in 2019), around 49 million next year and back to peak levels by 2023.
Ongoing vaccine incentives around the city range from free Shake Shack goodies to CitiBike memberships. In May, the New York Knicks offered free game tickets (Los Angeles is doing something similar with season tickets to the Kings and Galaxy) and New York State doled out free two-day passes to its state parks.
In New Orleans, which drew 19.75 million visitors in 2019 — a 6.7 percent increase from 2018 — one advertisement in the “Sleeves Up, NOLA” campaign includes an illustration of a vaccine vial paired with the words: “May Cause: Mardi Gras, Second Lines, Saints Games, Crawfish Boils, Festivals.” Around the city this spring, vaccination events in conjunction with bars and restaurants included “shots for shots” or piles of crawfish, and other local businesses have also offered promotions for anyone with a vaccination card.
In Charlottesville, Va. — a charming college town that’s long drawn visitors to its historical sites and nearby Shenandoah National Park, and has been eager to reboot tourism ever since the violent “Unite the Right” rally in 2017 — Champion Brewing Company is giving a free beer to customers who show a vaccination card documenting at least one shot. Statewide, Virginia, which lost $14.1 billion in visitor spending between January 2020 and April 2021, is doing a big marketing push for road trips and drive-to visitation; an ongoing WanderLove campaign highlights the Commonwealth’s outdoor attractions and collection of 275 colorful, Instagrammable, roadside “LOVE” signs.
Beyond that, certain domestic travel (and travel-related) companies have come out in support of vaccines, even mandating them for their guests and staff. United Airlines’ Your Shot to Fly sweepstakes trades proof of vaccination for free flights. Starting with its August sailings, Lindblad Expeditions, a cruise company based in New York City, is requiring all guests 12 years and older to be vaccinated. As of July 1, American Queen Steamboat Company, an Indiana-based river-cruise company, and Victory Cruise Lines, its sister company, are requiring all shipboard crew members, non-shipboard employees and passengers to be fully vaccinated. And in partnership with the White House, Uber and Lyft are offering free rides to vaccination sites.
Lastly, while some Caribbean destinations are still complicated for Americans, Puerto Rico, which hit record-high tourism revenue in 2019, just two years after Hurricane Maria, has eased some of its entry guidelines: Fully vaccinated travelers arriving on domestic flights can skip the required Covid test and are exempt from the outdoor mask mandate.
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