HIGH POINT — High Point is preparing to benefit from a strong holiday season as forecasters predict a rebound in holiday travel this Thanksgiving.

Visit High Point staff members have noticed an uptick in phone calls and visits to the visitors center looking for shopping opportunities, Visit High Point President Melody Burnett said.

“We know that there is a lot of pent-up demand for travel, especially for visitors in the leisure market,” Burnett said. “We have some leisure opportunities throughout the week with visitors who are looking to update their space before the holidays, so we direct them to the 58-plus furniture stores in town.”

For the weekend, events like the Uptowne Holiday Stroll, Kersey Valley Christmas, Christmas with John Berry, the High Point Ballet’s “Nutcracker” and “A Christmas Carol” will make it attractive to tack on a day visit or overnight stay in High Point, Burnett said. Many High Point visitors like to stop here on their way to larger destinations such as Asheville or Myrtle Beach, Burnett said.

According to the Destination Analysts, which studies travel and tourism trends, the number of Americans who plan to take a trip during the Thanksgiving holiday has more than doubled compared to 2020, even surpassing 2019 numbers. Last year at this time, many people stayed home or went to small family gatherings for turkey, stuffing and traditional Thanksgiving fixings. This year, the wide availability of COVID-19 vaccinations has made people feel more comfortable about travel.

AAA predicts 53.4 million Americans will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday, up 13% from 2020. This brings travel numbers within 5% of the pre-pandemic numbers for 2019. For North Carolina, AAA forecasts nearly 1.5 million people in the state will travel for Thanksgiving, a 13% rebound from the 2020 holiday and only 2% below pre-pandemic numbers.

“We expect a strong holiday travel season as the health officials have given travelers the confidence to resume their visiting without restriction,” Burnett said. “Taking a road trip to visit friends and family and shopping are activities that Americans view as safe and budget-friendly during the holiday season. Furthermore, 35% of travelers who visit friends and family will stay in a hotel, which has more local spending impact opportunities for our community.”

The rebound also is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels for air travel, Piedmont Triad International Airport Executive Director Kevin Baker said.

“Based on projected seat totals, it appears that we may get close to 85% of 2019 passenger levels,” Baker said.

At the November PTI Airport Authority board meeting, board members learned the number of passengers was up 135% in October from October 2020, though still 27% less than October 2019.

The total number of departing PTI passengers currently expected for December 2021 is 90,339, nearly double the 48,988 in December 2020 but down 20% from December 2019.

Raleigh-Durham International Airport expects more than 234,000 passengers will pass through the airport Monday through Sunday of Thanksgiving week, about 53,000 less than the same week in 2019 but more than twice as many as last year’s 103,000. Overall, passenger traffic at RDU is still off about 25% from pre-pandemic levels.

Charlotte Douglas International Airport’s Thanksgiving holiday travel numbers are nearly on par with pre-pandemic numbers from 2019, airport officials said.

At PTI, Baker said business conferences, seminars and trade shows need to return fully to return to normal levels.

“Leisure travel was fully rebounded (and in some cases outpaced 2019 numbers) months ago, but business travel is much slower to return,” Baker said.

Burnett agreed.

“Our area partners are seeing an uptick in group and social meetings that plan to book now and into 2022,” she said. “It may be the spring of 2023 before we start to see a resemblance of normal travel in our hospitality industry.”

cingram@hpenews.com | 336-888-3534 | @HPEcinde