AAA Says Americans Will Drive More, Fly Less During Labor Day Weekend - BodyShop Business
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AAA Says Americans Will Drive More, Fly Less During Labor Day Weekend

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AAA forecasts 31.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Labor Day holiday weekend, a 2.4 percent decrease from the 32.3 million people who traveled one year ago, but the group expects more drivers will hit the road compared to 2010. The Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Sept. 1-5.

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“AAA is projecting a decrease in the number of Labor Day travelers as some Americans react to recent economic uncertainty and increasing airfares,” said Glen MacDonell, director, AAA Travel Services. “While automobile travel is expected to increase slightly, if recent declines in gasoline prices continue through Labor Day, we could see an increase in last-minute holiday weekend travel.”

Approximately 27.3 million people (87 percent of holiday travelers) plan to take to the nation’s roadways this Labor Day holiday weekend, according to AAA. This is a slight increase of 0.5 percent from the 27.2 million Labor Day 2010 auto travelers, and a 3-percent increase in the share of total holiday travelers from last year’s 84 percent. Automobile travel remains the dominant mode of holiday transportation.

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The overall decrease in expected travelers is a result of a mixed economic outlook, consumer uncertainty regarding the overall economy and recent downturns in economic factors that affect discretionary income, which is particularly relevant to the travel and tourism industry. Real disposable income is up just 1.3 percent, which is being offset by the travel price index rising 6.7 percent since last year, due primarily to rising transportation costs. The housing market remains depressed, with new and existing home prices down 2.4 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.

Almost 2.5 million leisure travelers (8 percent of holiday travelers) will fly during the Labor Day holiday weekend, a 1.9-percent decrease from 2010. Other modes of travel (trains, watercraft, multi-modal travel) will make up the remaining 5 percent of total person-trips (1.7 million travelers), down from the 2010 share of 8 percent, but well above the 4 percent seen in 2009.

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Distance Traveled

According to a survey of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to be 608 miles, only slightly less than last year’s average travel distance of 635 miles. Median spending is expected to be $702, largely unchanged from $697 last year. Fuel and transportation costs combine to consume the largest share of holiday spending (27 percent), followed by accommodations (22 percent), food and beverages (21 percent), shopping (13 percent), entertainment and recreation (12 percent), and other costs (five percent).

Effect of Gas Prices

A consistent story throughout the year has been the significant increase in gas prices. The current national average price for regular unleaded gasoline is approximately $3.57 per gallon, about 86 cents higher than one year ago. Down nearly 10 percent from their May peak, gas prices will have less of an impact on Labor Day holiday travelers than they had on Memorial Day and Independence Day holiday travelers, during which 42 percent and 44 percent of travelers, respectively, stated gas prices would impact travel plans. Seventy-one percent of intended Labor Day holiday travelers said gasoline prices would not impact their travel plans. For the remaining 29 percent who said gas prices would impact their travel plans, 20 percent plan to economize in other areas while the remaining 9 percent are divided between changing their mode of travel and taking shorter trips.

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