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AAA Forecasts Memorial Day Travel Up 5.4 Percent

May 21, 2010 By: George Dooley

While recent stock market volatility and the gulf oil spill could alter travel plans for some, improved economic data should propel a sizeable increase in holiday vacations, the AAA reports. The AAA projects the number of Americans traveling on vacation this Memorial Day holiday weekend will increase 5.4 percent from 2009 with approximately 32.1 million travelers taking a trip away from home. Last year, 30.5 million Americans traveled during the same period.

“While the economy continues to be rocked by waves of occasional uncertainty, improved economic performance from one year ago should cause more Americans to take vacations this Memorial Day holiday weekend,” said Glen MacDonell, director, AAA Travel Services. “AAA travel agents are reporting double-digit increases in the percentage of travelers making advanced bookings for tours and cruises, hotel bookings via are increasing and AAA’s many travel industry partners have reported improved business conditions this spring.”

MacDonell cautioned, “Increased travel can also mean reduced availability, especially in markets like central Florida where the opening of exciting new attractions are expected to make the area one the summer’s most popular destinations.” MacDonell’s best advice is to “talk to a travel agent to find the best package deals and be sure to jump on a bargain if you find one.”

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.

Trips by auto are expected to increase in popularity with 87 percent or 28.0 million people reaching their destination by driving. This is an increase of 5.8 percent from last Memorial Day when 26.4 million travelers went by motor vehicle. This Memorial Day weekend AAA does not expect the price of gasoline to average more than $3.00 per gallon.

Leisure air travel also is expected to grow slightly with 2.15 million holiday flyers expected, the AAA says. This would be an increase of 2.4 percent from one year ago when 2.1 million flew. Trips by other modes, including rail, buses and watercraft, will be the dominant means of travel used by 6 percent of all travelers.

Average spending will top $800 and average distance traveled will be 626 miles. The average distance traveled by Americans this Memorial Day holiday weekend is forecast to be approximately the same as one year ago, 626 miles vs. 620 in 2009, AAA reported. Median spending is estimated to be $809 this Memorial Day. This is a sizeable reduction from one year ago, when Americans reported average spending plans of $1,052. Sixty-one percent of Americans will spend time with friends and relatives over the holiday.

Airfares will be unchanged, hotel rates remain a deal, and rental car rates will be lower according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index. Air fares over the Memorial Day holiday weekend are expected to remain unchanged from last year as air passengers will pay a lowest average round-trip fare of $176 per ticket. Weekend daily car rental rates will drop 15 percent from an average of $43.30 in 2009 to $36.65.

Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to remain a bargain, but will decline only one percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $141.60 per night compared to $142.45 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels will pay four percent less at an average cost of $99 per night.



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