American Express cards co-branded with Delta, Hilton and British Airways are performing better than others, he said.
“A lot of people, their psychology is they save points for the big trip," Squeri said. Others focus on earning elite status with an airline or hotel through spending, which he believes “is going to be even more important as we move forward.”
Dreaming about trips is something the travel industry also hopes to see more of, even if many people aren’t going anywhere now.
The U.S. Travel Association and a coalition of travel industry businesses launched a campaign this week called “Let’s Go There,” with the idea of encouraging people to plan or think about taking a trip when they’re ready.
“The act of simply planning a trip can have a positive impact on our outlook,” said Disney Parks executive Jill Estorino, who is part of the coalition. Visit California president Caroline Beteta said having a trip to look forward to “is a much needed reminder that better days are ahead.”
Bookings for domestic flights and hotels were still down 64% as of the end of August, according to a traveler trends tracker from travel data provider ADARA.
While optimism can play a role, travel restrictions and continued virus outbreaks are still keeping many from venturing out on big trips.
Jacobson expects the recovery to be choppy, adding “we’re still well, well behind where we should be.”