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Vaccinations, improving pandemic situation spark rise in summer travel

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MADISON (WKOW) -- The COVID-19 pandemic halted most travel during 2020 and forced many families to change their plans and cancel vacations. But 2021 looks to be a different story as case numbers continue to drop, vaccination rates rise and communities relax health orders.

"All the early indicators that we see, not only nationally in terms of travel sentiment, but locally here in Door County from innkeepers and other businesses, there seems to be really strong demand for tourism," Jon Jarosh, the director of communications and public relations for Destination Door County, said.

According to a survey from the travel and tourism market research firm Destination Analytics, nearly 87% of American travelers are planning to take a trip this summer.

One of those people is Alisa Sleep, a Dane County mom with three children. Her family is planning an August trip to Florida that they had to cancel last year.

"We're pretty excited," she said. "It'll be our first long road trip, but it feels like a doable option."

Sleep said national vaccination trends played a big role in her comfort with traveling.

"The fact that so many people have become vaccinated and that the supply of the vaccine now outpaces the demand, I think that's a really good indicator that it's starting to be safe out there," she said.

Rental property owners anticipate a more normal season

When travel slowed to a crawl last spring, vacation rental property owners were some of the most affected.

"We were just surviving," Marin Haning, who owns rental properties near Baraboo, said.

She said, last summer, her cancelation policy was practically nonexistent.

"I was refunding anyone who didn't feel comfortable traveling," she said. "I didn't ask any questions or put any stipulations on anyone."

But after a year of learning more about COVID-19 and what is and isn't safe, she said her normal policies are in place this summer.

"They know what they're getting into now," she said.

But one pandemic-era change that isn't going away just yet is the enhanced cleaning measures Haning and other Airbnb operators use. She told 27 News those measures, combined with the improving national COIVD-19 situation, mean her properties' calendars are booking up quickly.

"We have families who haven't seen each other, you know, over the pandemic that want a safe place that they can reunite and connect," she said.

Looking forward to getting back to normal

Sleep said her family's upcoming trip will be more than just a beach getaway -- it'll be a return to their pre-pandemic life.

"Traveling is something that our family really loves to do," she said. "[We] really love making those memories, and so we're just looking forward to a change of scenery."

But while the Sleeps are ready to hit the road again, she said she knows not every family will feel the same.

"Everybody has a different comfort level," she said. "Certainly, there's different risk factors for everyone, and I think, though, that most people are getting back to the point where they're ready to get out more and more."

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Caroline Dade

Reporter/Multimedia Journalist, 27 News

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