Beach parties in Florida, Texas and Mexico made headlines a year ago for ignoring virus safety advice. Here’s how the travel ritual will look different in 2021.
The New York Times.- Last year, Covid-19 crashed the spring break party, but not before mass gatherings on the beaches of Florida, Texas and Mexico flouted travel warnings and social-distancing advice. Ski areas had to shut down during one of the busiest periods of the season. Student trips for enrichment and sport were suddenly canceled.
Now, a year later, spring break is showing signs of life again, albeit in very different forms than the past — even as officials in one spring-break favorite, Florida, vow to fight any domestic travel restrictions reportedly under consideration by the White House as cases of more contagious variants surge there.
“We don’t want to see a repeat of last year,” said Steve Hayes, president and chief executive of Visit St. Pete/Clearwater, which promotes tourism in that Gulf Coast area, where crowds jammed the beaches last spring. “What we want is a picture that says, what a difference a year makes.”
Stricter limits on group gatherings, mask mandates and restrictions at hotels, restaurants and bars in popular spring destinations diminish the odds of a repeat.
Virtual classrooms and workplaces have freed some students and families from the traditional spring-break schedule, a shift that may dilute 2021 traffic. This trend is already showing up in some ski areas that rely on visitors who drive there, like Lutsen Mountains in northern Minnesota, where weekday skier visits have doubled this year.
With colleges shrinking spring break and the arrival of the vaccine, largely prioritized to older Americans, the 2021 spring breaker may be significantly older than the stereotyped one.
“At least in 2021, I think we’ll see more seniors as spring breakers as they are the first to have access to the vaccine and by March and April they’ll have the second dose,” said Joel Holland, the chief executive of Harvest Hosts, a membership platform that offers R.V. camping spots in nontraditional settings, such as breweries and farms. Of 3,000 members aged 65 and older recently surveyed, about three-quarters said they planned to travel more this year than last and almost 58 percent said they planned to travel more in 2021 than in pre-pandemic 2019.
Whether senior or college-age, spring break will be quieter this year. The seasonal escape “is pivoting to domestic drive markets, private vacation rentals or nothing at all,” said Erika Richter, the senior communications director for the American Society of Travel Advisors, noting that multi-generational family trips are trending.
The seasonal itch to travel, of course, runs headlong into advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to postpone travel in order to avoid contracting or spreading Covid-19.
“My first inclination is to say please stay put given the transmission rates and different variants of the virus that are circulating,” said Dr. Darlene Bhavnani, an associate professor and infectious disease epidemiologist at Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin.
For those bent on traveling, she added, “a safer way would be not to stray too far from home, travel with those in your household, keep it to a car ride” and consider renting an Airbnb or camping.
From testing protocols and travel affidavits to uncrowded beaches and bird-watching blinds with capacity caps, here’s how spring break may look in 2021.