This past August was the hottest ever in Palm Springs, with high temperatures rising to 110 or above on 24 days, and even hitting an astonishing 120 degrees.

That kind of heat would normally keep away all but the most intrepid desert rats. But not during a pandemic. Since June, after county and state leaders allowed hotels and home rentals to re-open, Palm Springs has enjoyed a relative surge of visitors — and that interest should extend into the cooler fall and winter months.

“Our summer bookings were up 42% over summer 2019,” said John-Patrick Flynn, the brand manager at Acme House Company, which manages about 150 rental properties in the area. “Since re-opening in June, we have been completely sold out of all our single-family pool homes every week,” he added. “Most guests are traveling from the West Coast, particularly the Los Angeles, San Diego and San Francisco Bay areas, and staying longer than usual.”

Overall hotel occupancy in the Palm Springs area is down compared with last summer. “Contributing factors include the staggered re-opening of hotels and because groups cannot gather due to California state restrictions,” according to Joyce Kiehl of the Greater Palm Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau. However she said that the leisure travel segment is up 38.3% year-over-year so far in September, with hotel rates up 10%.

Air travel demand is soaring, too. “Desert locations like Palm Springs, Phoenix, and Albuquerque have increased their share of fall air travel bookings compared to last year, while big cities like Chicago, New York and San Francisco have seen marked drops,” according to Kelly Soderlund, a spokesperson for TripIt, the popular trip itinerary organizing app. She told SFGATE that TripIt’s advance bookings for fall flights to Palm Springs alone show a year-over-year increase of 66%, while fall bookings to San Francisco and New York are both down 42%.

Following the trend toward increased leisure travel and away from business travel, which is not expected to return in any significant way until the pandemic is over, airlines are chasing that bump in demand. In just the last month, several have announced plans to add new nonstops or flight frequencies to Palm Springs International Airport (PSP).

Don’t miss a shred of important travel news! Sign up for our FREE weekly email alerts.

This week, Alaska Airlines, the dominant carrier at PSP, announced it would add new nonstops, including twice daily, year-round service from Mineta San Jose International Airport starting Dec. 17, plus new flights from Reno and Boise. Earlier this month, Southwest announced that, at long last, it would add Palm Springs flights. Although it did not specify the cities to which it would fly, it’s likely to add flights to Oakland and/or San Jose and perhaps other focus cities like Denver, Dallas, Chicago or Phoenix.

And there’s more: American Airlines will add a new seasonal nonstop from Philadelphia, starting Dec. 19. JetBlue said it would fly nonstop twice a week from Fort Lauderdale (a real head scratcher!). Delta Air Lines and tiny Boutique Air announced year-round nonstops on the 25-minute route from Los Angeles International (LAX). Boutique will also fly in from Phoenix. Allegiant Air will add twice weekly flights from Eugene and Boise. (You can see all flights to/from PSP, which really ramp up during winter months, here.)

Read all recent TravelSkills posts here

Chris McGinnis is SFGATE’s senior travel correspondent. You can reach him via email or follow him on Twitter or Facebook. Don’t miss a shred of important travel news by signing up for his FREE weekly email updates!

SFGATE participates in various affiliate marketing programs, which means we may get paid commissions on editorially chosen products purchased through our links to retailer sites.

Continue Reading

Source Article