Friday, May 20, 2011

AAA Predicts an Increase in Memorial Day Travel

Memorial Day weekendDespite rising costs of airline tickets, hotels and rental cars, AAA believes that there will be slightly more residents traveling over this year's Memorial Day weekend compared to last year.

AAA, which just so happens to be the nation's largest leisure travel organization, predicts that roughly 34.9 million Americans will hop aboard their chosen means of transportation and travel at least 50 miles away from home next weekend for Memorial Day. This estimate is a 0.2% increase (roughly 100,000 people) over the 34.8 million people who set out to travel last year. AAA defines the Memorial Day travel period as running from Thursday, May 26th until Monday, May 30th.

According to Chuck Mai, a spokesman for AAA-Oklahoma, "In 2010, Memorial Day travel experienced a gain of more than 14%. This year we expect to add slightly to that gain due to an anticipated increase in air travel and an improvement in the overall domestic economic picture. Many travelers have told us they'll compensate for higher fuel costs by cutting back in other areas of spending."

Some people, in Oklahoma at least, are deciding to stay closer to home or are even going as far as delaying travel plans for the weekend. Memorial Day has long since been considered the traditional start of the summer travel season according to AAA. Another factor is schooling. A rash of snowstorms back in February caused many schools to shut down for two weeks and those schools now have to make up that time by letting out two weeks later than usual.

Nancy Winn, a travel agent with Travel Leaders/Spears Travel, stated, "Schools are getting out late so that kind of messed up people's plans. So, many people are waiting until the middle of June."

Even though gas prices are more than $1 a gallon higher than they were last year, vehicle travel is still the primary route of transportation. According to AAA, nearly 9 out of 10 holiday travelers will be getting to their desired locations via motor vehicles throughout Memorial Day weekend.

The national average price for regular gas right now is $3.95 per gallon, compared with the $2.85 per gallon price of last year. However, gas is still lower in some areas. Around my hometown in Ohio gas has dropped to as low as $3.77 per gallon.

AAA conducted a survey of intended holiday travelers and found that 6 out of 10 stated that the increase in gas prices would not affect their plans to travel. 70% of the people who said rising gas prices would affect their travel stated that they would make up for that increase by economizing in other areas. The rest of the people polled said that they would simply take a shorter trip or travel by something other than car.

AAA expects around 2.93 million people to travel by air over the weekend, which is an 11.5% increase over last year's numbers. Air fares over Memorial Day weekend are expected to be 14% higher than this time last year with the lowest round-trip cost coming in around $201.

According to Tim Smith, a spokesman from American Airlines, "The busiest travel days will be Thursday and Friday, May 26 and 27, and Tuesday, May 31 when returning holiday travelers will be running into outbound business travelers. Load factors (percentage of full seats) will be in the high 80s and low 90s. Give yourself plenty of time."

AAA also noted that their Three Diamond lodging costs are up 5% from one year ago with travelers spending roughly $148 per night as opposed to the $142 of last year. Travelers to AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect a 10% increase in price with an average cost of $109.

What about you? Will rising gas prices, air fares and hotel costs put a damper on your Memorial Day weekend?

Source: Tulsa World - AAA predicts uptick in holiday travel despite higher costs is news of, for and by SMBs! The Small & Medium Business Magazine!

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