(CNN) — For the past several years, Hong Kong-based fashion designer Marie France Van Damme has spent the week between Christmas and New Year’s in Malaysia — island hopping on a boat with her husband, three sons and their girlfriends.
This year, however, with Covid-19 still a global health crisis, travel isn’t part of their plans. “Our traditional trip is off,” she says.
A sailing yacht at sea in Redang Island, Malaysia, in 2019.
“Given the uncertainty and unknowns due to the pandemic, traveling is an ordeal. Plus, Hong Kong has a strict quarantine policy if you leave the country, so we’ve decided that the best option for us is to stay put.”
Van Damme is far from alone when it comes to those much looked forward to end of the year vacations and trips back home.
The ‘no travel’ trend
CEO David A. Steinberg points to a few factors for this decline.
“People are generally scared to fly and also have economic uncertainty, especially because unemployment benefits are running out,” he says.
International prices have also dropped to a new low of $720 round trip on average, a 22% decrease from last year. In addition, demands for flights during the holiday season are almost twice as suppressed compared with last year.
Karen Magee, Protravel and Tzell Travel
The company’s CEO, Olivier Jager, is surprised that the percentage isn’t higher.
“Given the current crisis in which Covid-19 is rampant, a second wave is expected, airlines are going bust, and most people are afraid to travel in case they catch the disease or find themselves subject to quarantine or both, it’s amazing the number is not even worse,” he says.
Luxury travel advisers are also seeing the slowdown.
“Our clients are showing a lot of interest in holiday travel but are afraid to make commitments,” says Karen Magee, senior vice president of supplier and adviser engagement at Protravel and Tzell Travel, which have a total of more than 1,100 advisers globally.
“They’re waiting to see what countries will reopen and what quarantine requirements will be like.”
Some confirmed holiday bookings
At this same time in 2019, says Magee, clients had made more bookings than they have this year, but the company is still seeing sales.
“The Caribbean is big for us. St. Bart’s first followed Anguilla, Turks and Caicos and St. Lucia,” she says. “Interestingly, domestic ski destinations haven’t been as popular.”
Rosewood Little Dix Bay in Virgin Gorda is near 80% occupancy between December 19 and January 3.
Companies aside, the most telling sign pointing to active holiday travel trips comes from hotels all over the world with confirmed bookings.
According to a spokesperson for both resorts, reservations for late December are slightly more than half compared with the same time last year. Guests are most interested in the two- to five-bedroom beachfront villas, which have fully equipped kitchens, spacious dining areas and private pools.
Ashford Castle in County Mayo, Ireland, is completely sold out the week between Christmas and New Year’s.
Winter road trips for the holidays
Some of the people who are still keen on going forward with their annual holiday vacations will consider only driving to reach their destination.
Mohonk Mountain House in New Paltz, New York, is in high demand for the 2020 holiday season.
Jim Smith Photography
Karen Noloan of Dublin, Ireland, is one example of a seasoned traveler who won’t be flying this year for her usual holiday getaway.
“Normally, we go skiing in the Sierra Nevada mountains in Spain,” she says. “We don’t want to give up a holiday trip, but we’re staying in Ireland and driving down to Kerry instead. We will go on walks, enjoy the scenery and sit by roaring fires. It won’t be Spain, but it is a vacation.”