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AAA projects 2.5 percent decrease in Fourth of July travel

June 29, 2011

By AAA

Helena, Mont.—AAA forecasts 39 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday weekend, a 2.5 percent decline from the 40 million people who traveled a year ago. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, June 30, to Monday, July 4.

Tara Hanley, AAA spokesman, explained, “AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Independence Day travelers mainly due to fuel prices being approximately $1 per gallon higher than last year.”

The percentage of travelers with a household income of $50,000 or less is expected to decrease from 41 percent to 33 percent, while travelers with a household income of more than $100,000 are expected to increase to 35 percent from 26 percent.

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 2011 Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast can be found at AAA.com/news.

Automobile travel down 3 percent, but five out of six travelers will drive to destination

Approximately 32.8 million people plan to travel by automobile, and that’s a decline of almost a million auto travelers from the 33.7 million who drove last year. Automobile travel remains the dominant mode of transportation (84 percent of holiday travelers) despite gasoline prices about a dollar per gallon more expensive than a year ago in many parts of the country. The national average price for regular gasoline is $3.63.

Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans

A survey of intended travelers found that 56 percent said rising gasoline prices would not impact their travel plans. For the remaining 44 percent who said rising gas prices would impact their travel plans, seven out of 10 will economize in other areas, and three out of 10 are planning to take a shorter trip or travel by a different mode of transportation.

Number of air travelers expected to increase by 9 percent

A little more than 3 million leisure travelers (8 percent of holiday travelers) will fly during the holiday weekend, a 9 percent increase from last year’s 2.75 million air travelers. The remaining 8 percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.

Travelers to experience increases in airfares, hotel rates and car rental rates

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, Independence Day holiday airfares are expected to be 11 percent more than last year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $213 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase 3 percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $147 per night compared to $143 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay 8 percent more at an average cost of $110 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $56, a 3 percent increase over a year ago.

Average travel distance down 7 percent

According to a survey of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 573 miles, which is 7 percent less than last year’s average travel distance of 617 miles. Median spending is expected to be $807, an increase of 25 percent from $644 last year.

From the June 29-July 5, 2011 issue

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