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Travel is Back in the U.S., While Global Picture Looks Different

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Travel is Back

Travel is Back

Evan Peterson, CME Group


  • Domestic air travel within the United States is returning to pre-pandemic levels, and RV sales are reaching record highs
  • International travel still faces uncertainties, but could be a post-pandemic barometer for the global economy, say CME Group Economists

Travel is back – in the United States, at least. Traffic at TSA checkpoints sank more than 80% from March to April 2020, but has now nearly returned to pre-pandemic levels after marking their largest numbers since the start of the pandemic during the July 4 weekend.

“While international travel is still constrained by uncertainties, domestic air travel is rising fast,” says CME Group Chief Economist Blu Putnam in the latest episode of The Economists, above. “Within the U.S., first class air travel has come back rapidly already to pre-pandemic levels, even as business travel lags far behind.”

Ground travel is perhaps an even better indicator of Americans’ willingness to move within the country. RV sales for May soared more than 76% above their May 2020 levels, according to the RV Industry Association. Average gasoline prices have risen to $3.14 per gallon, nearly a dollar above where they were in July 2020, according to AAA.

While travel within the United States is growing, international travel has not yet posted a similar comeback.

“Globally, the picture is more complicated,” says CME Group Senior Economist Erik Norland. “The recovery of gasoline demand in the United States might not be emblematic of what’s happening worldwide,” he says, pointing to travel restrictions within Europe and rising COVID-19 rates in some parts of Asia.

The return of travel, while good news for Americans, doesn’t reflect a global trend. In fact, it’s difficult to find similar domestic travel scenarios when looking across the globe, says Norland.

“The biggest trend globally might be the lack of consistent trends,” he says. “Each nation is really on its own unique situation, and there is a lack of standardization among countries. The last thing to recover might be international travel. The bottom line is that when international travel does come back, it will be a sign that the global economy is on its way to a full recovery.”

Watch the full episode of The Economists above.

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