BILLINGS — People across Montana are ready to get out after a year of staying in due to the COVID-19 pandemic. That’s why travel analysts and KOA say travel for this Memorial Day holiday weekend will break records.
“People are booking and booking often,” said Saskia Boogman, spokesperson for Billings-based KOA, which operates hundreds of campgrounds across the country. “Across the KOA system, our advanced reservations are up 60% over 2019, which was a record year for KOA.”
Boogman says because of that 2021 could be their best year yet.
This year people are slated to put the worries of 2020 and the pandemic behind them and get back out. “They’re saying, hey, I think I feel comfortable actually getting out,” she said. “We saw that in camping last year more than other forms of travel and hospitality.”
Boogman says that’s when first-time campers got a taste of what the great outdoors offers and that’s making them want to come back for more. “Ten million people got out camping for the first time, and a lot of those people are going to come back,” she said.
For KOA those 10 million people using their facilities and making reservations meant record numbers.
But it’s not just camping that’s expected to see a boom for this Memorial Day holiday. The American Automobile Association is predicting an increase of 60 percent from 2020 with more than 37 million people expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday.
“There's going to be an increase in travel across the board, road trips are going to be the main source for people getting around this year,” said Aldo Vazquez with AAA. “In the mountain region, we expect about a 61% increase in total 53% of those are going to be road trips.”
While people are still expected to hit the road, Vazquez says many are opting to fly. “Now what we're seeing is that people are starting to head to these more populous cities where that lost their appeal during the pandemic. So cities like Orlando, Los Angeles, San Diego, a lot of these beach destinations are going to be very popular for travelers this year,” he said.
So whatever your retreat of choice is, one thing for sure is with COVID restrictions easing and vaccinations up, officials say people are ready to get back to normal.
And AAA predicts that Thursday is the busiest time for travel between 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 pm when officials predict to see double the people on the road.