According to recent reports released last Tuesday, an improving economy is behind an expected surge in travelers for Thanksgiving. According to numbers estimated by AAA as well as IHS Global Insight, somewhere around 42.2 million people will travel anywhere from 50 miles away or more come next Thursday for Thanksgiving. That is a lot of people. In fact, it is an 11% increase from the amount of travelers seen last year, which was somewhere around 37.9 million who traveled during the 5-day break.
AAA and IHS Global Insight have based their predictions on signs of an improving economy which includes a 2.2% gain in gross domestic product since Thanksgiving 2009. The organizations are also using the GDP growth as well as signs that many consumers are knocking off their debt as indications that more of these people will clutter highways and airports for Thanksgiving.
Over the last two years, Thanksgiving travel has dropped to a historical low. Travel last year only rose a pathetic 0.2% from 2008 when the number of travelers dropped a dramatic 25%. In most cases, people will be traveling by car which makes a near 94% of all Thanksgiving travel. A 12% increase in highway traffic is also predicted to occur compared to last year's numbers.
In an unfortunate event, gas prices have increased by $0.24 per gallon over the last year. However, AAA believes that the increase "is not sizable enough to discourage travel." AAA also stated, "Moreover, the increase in gasoline prices is expected to be offset by the healthier economic positions of households this holiday relative to last year."
Only about 4% of travelers this Thanksgiving will be traveling by air which includes a projected increase of 3.5% in air travel. This increase, according to AAA, is "based on improvements in the airline industry and its recent increases in capacity." If this is true, then it will be a distinct change in airline travel which has plummeted in recent years. However, these statistics do not take into consideration the number of people who may be deterred from flying due to the increased airport security including the full body scanners that have recently been put in place.
An increase in holiday travel is a good sign that we may be coming out, ever slowly mind you, of this economic recession we seem to have fallen into. While there has been an increase in Thanksgiving travel, I think the amount of Christmas travelers is going to be a true sign of how far out of this economic slump we truly are.