Thanksgiving travel has taken a significant hit as COVID-19 cases across the country continue to rise and people appear to be heeding government officials’ recommendations to forgo their traditionally large family gatherings.
Departures at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, the state’s largest travel hub, are so far down 42 percent compared to last year’s Thanksgiving travel, according to airport spokesperson Erin Burns.
The coronavirus has also taken a big toll on travel at Baton Rouge Metropolitan Airport. Coming off a seven-year high of 822,000 passengers last year, the state’s second busiest airport has seen less than half of those travelers this year. Data for November were not immediately available, but ever since the pandemic reached Louisiana early this year, the Baton Rouge airport has seen a 56 percent drop in departures and a 55 percent drop in arrivals compared to last year, according to its website.
Louisianans may not be traveling as much for Thanksgiving, but they seem to still be planning the usual feasts that are a hallmark of the holiday. Grocery stores are reporting sales volumes that are just as high, if not higher, as those last year.
Stacy Martin, manager of Robért Fresh Market in the Lakeview neighborhood of New Orleans, said her store had higher sales Tuesday than it did the same day last year.
“Right now we’re running at par for last year, sales wise,” Martin said in a phone interview Wednesday. “But we had quite a bit more sales yesterday than last year.”
Stephanie Dominique, manager at Breaux Mart in Chalmette, reported a similar situation, saying the COVID-19 pandemic has had virtually no effect on the number of customers coming in nor on sales.
Smaller gatherings may even be having a paradoxical effect on grocery shopping. With fewer large family gatherings where one household shops and cooks for several others, it’s possible that fewer gatherings mean more individual households are shopping.
“A lot of people are doing small parties,” Martin said. “Just from hearing customers talking, they’re saying they don’t want to risk their elderly family members, so usually they would do big groups, but now it’s everybody cooking for their own families.”