Feb 24, 2021 - Economy & Business

The pandemic itch

Illustration of a person staring into the light at the end of a tunnel, the light is in the shape of a coronavirus cell.  

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

After nearly a year of pandemic life, people are making plans to indulge in all the activities they have desperately missed — emboldened by encouraging vaccine news.

Why it matters: Signs of the pent-up demand expected to underscore the economic recovery are already taking shape.

  • Retail's leading trade group said today that sales could jump by as much as 8.2% this year — its highest estimate on record.

Here's how else the "pandemic itch" is manifesting ...

  • Cruise bookings are up 30%, Royal Caribbean said this week — even though it's unclear when operators will sail again.
  • The best part: Would-be cruisers are paying more for trips compared with pre-pandemic times, the company noted.

What they're saying: "There's going to be a jailbreak when there's enough vaccine out there," one analyst told CNBC.

Europe's biggest travel company Tui saw bookings for Greece, Spain and Turkey from July onward jump 500% from the prior week, per the FT.

  • It comes after U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson said lockdowns could be lifted by this summer.
  • United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby told Axios during an event today that there's "large pent-up demand for travel" that could be released as early as this summer, but it depends on the pace of vaccination.

What to watch: Whether all this activity — helped by the expected trillions in government stimulus — will lead to overheating and inflation, a piece of an important economic debate happening right now.

  • There are also questions about whether the economy can absorb such an intense restart.
  • "It's like not exercising for a long time and then doing this intense workout," the Atlantic Council's Josh Lipsky tells Axios.

Worth noting: Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell continues to shrug off inflation fears.

  • Powell told Congress it could take "more than three years" to hit the central bank's inflation goal.

The bottom line: After a year of lockdown, people want out. They are already sketching out their post-pandemic life.

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