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AAA Predicts Labor Day Travel Increase

August 25, 2010 By: George Dooley

The AAA projected the number of Americans traveling this Labor Day holiday weekend will increase 9.9 percent from 2009, with approximately 34.4 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home. Good news, considering AAA predicted a decrease in travel during the holiday in 2009. Last year, 31.3 million Americans traveled during the Labor Day holiday. The 2010 Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, September 2 to Monday, September 6.

“While media reports on the state of the U.S. economy are mixed, many Americans are still interested in taking one more trip as the summer travel season comes to a close,” said Glen MacDonell, director, AAA Travel Services. “It is encouraging to see more Americans planning to travel to visit family, friends and exciting vacation destinations. AAA travel agents are continuing to report strong increases in the number of travelers making advanced reservations. Hotel, car and vacation package reservations for the upcoming Labor Day weekend are up over ten percent compared to last year.”

The increase in travel for Labor Day appears to be the result of economic improvement over the past year. While job growth has been disappointing, gross domestic product, household net worth and consumer confidence have increased, while consumer debt has decreased. The U.S. travel industry began to gain traction in the fourth quarter of 2009 and that momentum has continued this year, AAA says.

In addition to economic data, the date of the Labor Day holiday is another variable considered in the forecast. The earlier the holiday falls in September, the more travel tends to occur. Although the growth in Labor Day travel is predicted to be strong at 9.9 percent, had the holiday fallen earlier in the month the forecasted number of travelers would likely be even higher.

Trips by automobile are expected to increase in popularity with 91 percent of travelers, or 31.4 million people, reaching their destination by driving. This is an increase of 10.3 percent from last Labor Day when 28.5 million travelers went by motor vehicle.

Barring any major tropical storm activity in the Gulf Coast region, AAA expects the national average price of self-serve regular gasoline to be between $2.65 and $2.75 per gallon during the holiday weekend.

Leisure air travel is expected to account for just five percent of overall travel with 1.62 million holiday flyers. This is an increase of 4.6 percent from one year ago when 1.54 million flew. Trips by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft, will be the dominant means of travel used by four percent of all travelers.

Based on a survey of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans this Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to be 635 miles, slightly less than one year ago (645 miles). Median spending is expected to be $697 this Labor Day, nearly $50 more than last year when median spending was estimated at $650. Dining (63 percent); shopping (47 percent) and visiting with friends and relatives (43 percent) were named as the three top primary activities by travelers this Labor Day weekend.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the Labor Day holiday weekend are expected to increase nine percent from last year with the lowest round-trip rates moving up to $179 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. Weekend daily car rental rates will increase seven percent to an average of $46. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase six percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $139 per night compared to $132 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay two percent more at an average cost of $102 per night.



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