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Travel interest picks up as vaccinations continue

MIDDLETON (WKOW) — Travel agents were some of the first to see changes at work as the world came to grips with the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, business is finally starting to pick back up.

“We are seeing sort of a light at the end of what has [has] been a long year,” Mary Miller, owner of Middleton Travel, said Saturday.

The U.S. travel industry lost nearly $500 billion in 2020 compared to 2019, according to the U.S. Travel Association. That’s about $1.6 billion every day from March through December.

“We had a very challenging March, April and May where there were hundreds, if not thousands, of cancellations,” Miller said. “As this pandemic went on, the cancellations continued … because of the restrictions that were imposed.”

But Miller said she wasn’t going to let an unpredictable pandemic end her long career in the travel industry.

“We’re all passionate about the travel industry, and we love it,” she said. “I’ve been in it for 40 years, and I think that I made a decision back a year ago to say, ‘No, I’m not giving up.’”

That determination is now paying off.

“There’s a lot of pent up demand,” she said. “People are ready to go, and they’re feeling more confident.”

Some of that confidence comes from COVID-19 vaccines.

“People with the vaccines are feeling more comfortable,” Miller said. “We call it post-vaccine travelers, and, you know, they’re ready.”

She said most of the trips her agency is booking are to destinations within the U.S, though some travelers are heading to Mexico and Caribbean countries.

“Those would be our No. 1, 2, 3 destinations in a normal year,” she said. “Of course, it doesn’t really compare to what 2019 or [20]18 was, but it’s a whole lot better than 2020.”

Miller said some popular destinations, like Europe, are still off-limits as international travel restrictions remain in place.

“But they will be back,” she said. “Hopefully, soon.”

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