AAA Chicago: Improved Economic Conditions to Boost Thanksgiving Travel by More Than 11 Percent

November 16, 2010

AURORA, Ill., Nov. 16, 2010 /PRNewswire/ — 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. Trips by automobile remain the dominant mode of transportation for holiday travel with 94 percent of travelers, or 39.7 million people, reaching their destination by driving. Leisure air travel is expected to account for four percent of overall travel with 1.62 million holiday flyers, an increase of 3.5 percent from last year’s 1.57 million flyers. The 2010 Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, November 24 to Sunday, November 28.

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The total number of Illinois travelers will be 2.25 million with 2.1 million traveling by auto and 87,000 traveling by air. In Indiana, there will be 906,000 total travelers this year, with 851,000 traveling by auto and 35,000 traveling by air. Both Illinois and Indiana are up nearly 12 percent in total travelers over Thanksgiving weekend 2009. Gas prices will remain high as travelers take to the roads this weekend. In Illinois the average cost of an unleaded gallon of gasoline is $3.05 and in Indiana the cost is $2.90.

“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 Regional President Brad Roeber. “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.

Based on a survey of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans this Thanksgiving holiday is expected to be 816 miles, virtually the same as one year ago (815 miles). Median spending is expected to be $495, roughly the same as last year when median spending was $494. Thanksgiving travel tends to be less expensive compared to other travel holidays because of its emphasis on the Thanksgiving meal and the gathering of friends and family. A majority of survey respondents (82 percent) reported that the main purpose of their upcoming trip was a visit with friends or family.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares over Thanksgiving are expected to increase four percent from last year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $176 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. Weekend daily car rental rates will decrease four percent to an average of $42. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase six percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $136 per night compared to $128 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay four percent more at an average cost of $96 per night.

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.

Lower household income and younger age groups tend to be more sensitive to economic downturns and, therefore, retracted more during the recession than older and higher household income groups. As the economy improves, individuals across the board benefit. Results from the survey of intended travelers reveal that the share of expected travelers in the under $50K household income bracket has risen from 40.4 percent in 2009 to 41.5 percent in 2010, and the share of intending travelers in the 18-34 year old category has increased from 28.1 percent in 2009 to 30.5 percent in 2010.

AAA has forecast an increase in travel for each of the travel holidays this year. In addition to the forecast, AAA 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.

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 AAA.com/news.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 52 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.


Source: newswire

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