AAA today projected the number of Americans traveling for the Thanksgiving holiday will increase 11.4 percent from 2009, with approximately 42.2 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home. Last year, 37.9 million Americans traveled during the Thanksgiving holiday. The 2010 Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 24 to Sunday, November 28.
In addition to the forecast, AAA says its 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 Thanksgiving holiday are up more than 10 percent compared to last year.
“While Americans remain cautious with household budgets and discretionary spending amidst high levels of unemployment, many are in a better financial position this Thanksgiving than a year ago,” said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. “This improvement, along with a strong desire to spend time with friends and family, is expected to propel a significant increase in Thanksgiving travel.”
The forecasted double-digit increase in Thanksgiving holiday travel would signify an important upturn in travel volume for the holiday after a year of negligible growth in 2009 (0.2 percent) and two years after a historic 25.2 percent decline in travel in 2008.
While the forecast for an 11.4 percent increase in Thanksgiving travel is significant, the increase in the number of travelers by 4.3 million is less than half of the volume lost from 2007 through 2009. Moreover, this year’s expected 42.2 million travelers remain almost 30 percent below the 2005 peak of 58.6 million travelers.
This year’s projected increase in holiday travel appears to be the result of modestly improved economic conditions since last year, including an increase in gross domestic product, real disposable personal income and household net worth combined with a decrease in consumer debt. While job growth has been minimal and unemployment remains high, the unemployment rate has remained stable, which is an improvement from 2008 and 2009 when job losses were mounting each quarter.
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. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2010 Thanksgiving holiday forecast can be found at www.AAA.com/news.