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Holiday leisure travel is on the rise as COVID restrictions decline

As more COVID-19 vaccines are rolled out and restrictions loosen, more people are packing their bags and going on vacation.

COLUMBIA, S.C. — After a year of not traveling, many people are packing their suit cases and taking their first vacation in over a year. Memorial weekend is the unofficial start to the summer and it's when many people begin their summer traveling. 

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, many trips last year were canceled. With more vaccines being given out and COVID restrictions lifting, many people are taking their first trip since the pandemic began. 

"We're going to Savannah, Georgia," said Dona Wechter, Traveler. "My daughter just bought her first home. I'm traveling with my son, his wife and my granddaughter. So we're really excited to go and see the other grandkids."

For Erica Jacobs and Nakia Flowers-Scott, this is their first trip, getting to spend time with their friends since the pandemic. 

"We're all vaccinated," Flowers-Scott said. "I work in health care and she's a teacher and we're all doing a girls trip."

"We missed our girls," Jacobs said. 

Jacobs also told News 19 the group was happy and excited for the trip. 

“Yes we will have some cocktails," Jacobs said. "We're gonna party and be on the beach and we're still gonna social distance. We're close to each other but everybody else can keep their six feet apart."

RELATED: Travel numbers climb as Americans hit the road for Memorial Day weekend

Some other Memorial weekend travelers are traveling by plane instead of car. Barbara Heron said both her and her husband are vaccinated and felt safe on their flight. 

"I have no concern," Heron said. "Everyone's in compliance. So, that brings up the comfort. I think as long as everyone does what they're supposed to do. It's okay."

RELATED: Airports, beaches expecting high volume of travelers for Memorial Day Weekend

For Jennifer Heydon, this is her first time traveling since the pandemic. She said her trip is for business, not leisure.

"I said I'm fully vaccinated," Heydin said. "Things seem to be calming down quite a bit as far as the virus so I felt fairly confident."

The Vice President of Marketing and Communications for Experience Columbia, Kelley Barbrey said tourism is back on the rise. She said hotel capacity rates are up to 60% compared to the same time last year with only 39%. 

"We are seeing signs of recovery, which is great," Barbrey said. "Another trend that we're noticing is that weekend, hotel stays are rebounding faster than during the week. What that's indicating to us is that, leisure travel is what's rebounding first. So families coming and sticking together in their family unit, enjoying outdoor activities maybe strolling through Main Street."