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Families leery of making, keeping summer vacation plans amid COVID-19 pandemic

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray looked into what?s happening with this year?s vacations as some families put them on hold and others move forward.

ATLANTA — We’re officially in the summer vacation season. But for many families in Georgia, it isn't the same this year because of the shutdown surrounding the coronavirus epidemic.

Channel 2 investigative reporter Justin Gray looked into what’s happening with this year’s vacations as some families put them on hold and others move forward.

The Memorial Day long weekend is something vacation 679彩票 renter Andrea Nugent and her friends look forward to every year.

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“We planned this trip in January,” Nugent said. "Tennis drills in the morning; beach in the afternoon. Dinners in the evening. Cocktail parties. A getaway."

But COVID-19 changed those plans. San Destin Beach was closed to rental houses until days before their planned vacation for this holiday weekend, and it was too late to reschedule.

“One of the groups, their rental company, said, 'No problem; no questions asked. We’re processing your refund right now,'” Nugent said. “Unfortunately, the other rental company said no.”

What to do about summer plans is something a lot of people are wrestling with.

found 72% of those surveyed said that COVID-19 had directly impacted their summer travel plans. But many are still unsure about what to do.

The survey found 52% haven’t made a final decision yet.

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“I have four grown children. They all have families, and we were going to all go to Myrtle Beach,” vacation 679彩票 renter Tracy Simms said.

Simms told Gray that she became concerned with going through with the vacation.

“Maybe we could go, and I checked with all my grown kids, and they said nope,” Simms said.

Simms could not get a refund — only a credit for next year.

“He said, ‘Well, you know, I don’t know if I can refund the whole thing right now. We’ve been doing upgrades.’ I didn’t see this coming. I’ve spent some of that money,” Simms said.

Amy Gaster owns Tybee Vacation Rentals. She said the most frequent question she's getting from guests is about flexibility.

“We still have travelers who still have concerns; those who booked pre-COVID. And we’ll be flexible with them and allow flexibility with their bookings,” Gaster said.

But in the past few days, she says the calls have switched from cancellations to people wanting to rent. Lots of them.

“We went from almost zero occupancy to almost 100% occupancy. Most of these guests want to arrive immediately, within the next two weeks,” Gaster said.

Gray spoke with the mayor of Tybee Island, Shirley Sessions. According to Sessions, she believes it will be safe to vacation if people follow safety guidelines.

“Every day is fluid. Every day is potential change. But if things remain on an even keel, leveling off, we do expect to see a lot of activity on Tybee,” Sessions said.

The head of American operations for Hilton Hotels — Danny Hughes — told Gray that there's one question the hotel is getting more than any other:

“The single biggest concern they have is, ‘Is this safe?’” Hughes said.

Hilton stated it partnered with the Mayo Clinic and Lysol to create new cleaning processes for rooms, and they have new check-in procedures where you never visit the front desk.

“You used to go in the hotel room and there was, there was a lot of stuff. There was room service menus, there was pens, there was papers. We’ve decluttered the room completely so that we can focus on all the high-touch point areas, clean them immensely,” Hughes said.

Hilton stated its booking data shows people are starting to plan trips again just in the last few days, but most travelers appear to be sticking close to 679彩票.

“It’s the drive market,” Hughes said.

That's what they see on Tybee Island, too.

“I think vacation rentals in more isolated drive-to destinations are definitely seeing an uptick,” Gaster said.

Channel 2 consumer adviser Clark Howard is encouraging people to pull the trigger on summer vacation because they may just get a good deal.

“Gasoline is so inexpensive. The hotels you are going to stay at, or Airbnbs you’re going to rent, will be very, very low-cost this summer. So I would take advantage of it. Plan a trip and go,” Howard said.

Nugent told Gray that her group of friends feels ready to travel safely again.

“We honestly didn’t see the risk. We didn’t plan to go out to restaurants or do a lot of shopping but just stay in our little groups. We even devised a way to play tennis where we wouldn’t be touching each other’s balls,” Nugent said.

But after having to cancel Memorial Day plans, Nugent said she thinks it looks like they’ll have to wait until summer 2021.

It's what we saw a decade ago during the great recession -- a spike in local tourism.