Feb 10, 2022 - Economy & Business

The world is roaring back

Illustration of an open door revealing fireworks
Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The search for normalcy may be over. Time spent at home shrank observably toward the close of 2021 as people got out and traveled in ways unseen since 2019. 

Why it matters: Declining cases of COVID in the U.S. in the fall prompted more people to get out — just before the Omicron variant popped up. 

  • That behavior in aggregate also points to how the economy is shifting away from being driven by a demand in goods to a demand for services. 

Driving the news: Business results from the past few months from Disney, Uber and Lyft out this week show theme park attendance and airport rides that match or exceed pre-pandemic levels. 

By the numbers: Disney reported its best quarter ever for revenue in its domestic parks and resorts, with all of its parks open during its October through December period.

  • Both Uber and Lyft said airport trips more than doubled from last year.
  • Lyft said airport rides made up 9% of ride volume which is only slightly below the 9.4% share in the same period two years ago in 2019. 

The big picture: Not only are these three companies an important measure of how much demand there is for services, they also provide a good indication of how willing in-person workers are to come return.

What they’re saying: “We had 85% of our cast members pretty much say, yes, immediately, when we [asked] them back,” Disney CEO Bob Chapek told investors.

  • The number of active drivers on Lyft’s platform reached a COVID high in the fourth quarter, the company’s CFO Elaine Paul reported.
  • Uber’s CEO Dara Khosroshawi said its global “active earner base” at 4.4 million people, is now the biggest it’s been since the second quarter of 2020.

What to watch: The return of international travel to the U.S., which would further boost services activity across the board. 

The bottom line: We’re back. (Knock on wood.)

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