Hilton sees record bookings in line with travel surge that could make 2021 bigger than 2019

Jun 2, 2021

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It’s no secret that travel is exploding this year, with pent-up demand driving a flurry of bookings. In fact, 2021 could see even higher levels of travel than 2019 did at its peak.

In an interview with CNBC, Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said the chain’s hotels throughout the U.S. were at nearly 93% occupancy over Memorial Day weekend — the highest point since the start of the pandemic.

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Travel bookings are surging this spring as vaccination rates increase and travelers release pent-up demand for trips. (Photo by Mixmike/Getty Images)

“Our bookings for this summer, at this point, are higher than we saw in 2019 at the peak,” Nassetta said. “People are getting out. They are feeling safer as vaccination rates go up, and it should be a really good summer for travel.”

Nassetta’s report is good news, but it’s hardly surprising, given other travel trends we’ve noticed this year. So far, we’ve seen surges in Hawaii and Alaska bookings and increasing demand for camping and visits to national parks.

Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta says the brand saw a 93% occupancy rate during Memorial Day weekend. Nassetta believes 2021 travel could outpace peak travel in 2019. (Photo by sefa ozel/Getty Images)

Plus, Italy, Greece and many other countries are open to Americans, and major cities like Las Vegas have also fully reopened, with Sin City seeing so many visitors that traffic was backed up for 26 miles last weekend.

Airlines are also seeing a dramatic upswing in booking numbers, allowing them to inch closer to breaking even after more than a year of burning through as much as $100 million in cash per day to keep fleets operational while weathering greatly reduced capacity.

That, of course, ties into trends seen by credit card companies, such as Amex, which said spending was at pre-pandemic levels earlier this year, with travel spiking 50% in mid-May.

Camping has become more popular during the pandemic, offering isolation while on the road. (Photo by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images)

But there are still hiccups to be worked out. Staffing and rental car shortages, along with the lack of standardized international travel health requirements, are leading to long waits at some airports, and testing snags have also caused problems for some travelers.

If you have plans to stay at a Hilton property this summer, be sure to learn everything there is to know about the Hilton Honors program so you can maximize your points-earning potential. The brand is currently running a “More Nights, More Points” promotion where you can earn double points on stays of one or two nights and three times the bonus points on stays of three nights or longer. The promotion runs through Sept. 6, 2021.

The brand has extended the deadline for all expiring points through Dec. 31, 2021, giving you plenty of time to cash in any you have saved. Hilton also recently announced that it would extend the deadline for expiring free-night certificates through January 2022.

Featured photo by Westend61/Getty Images.

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