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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.

Go deeper

Dion Rabouin, author of Markets
Feb 23, 2021 - Economy & Business

Commodities hit 8-year high as market divergence continues

Expand chart
Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

Tech stocks suffered some big losses on Monday, as the specter of higher U.S. borrowing costs continued to weigh on their share prices, while bullish vaccine expectations helped make the Dow the only major U.S. index to end in the green.

What happened: The benchmark 10-year Treasury yield rose to 1.37%, a fresh one-year high, showing investors remain bullish on the economy and a recovery in inflation.

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

29 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.