AAA Projects Memorial Day Travel to Decline by 0.9%

Published in CSP Daily News

But travelers choosing roads over skies in higher numbers; more concerned with airline fees than gas prices

ORLANDO, Fla. -- AAA Travel projects 34.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a 0.9% decrease from the 35.1 million people who traveled last year, according to the 2013 AAA Memorial Day Travel Forecast. The anticipated decline in holiday travel is predominately due to a decline in air travel, fee fatigue among travelers and a waffling economy.

The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 23 to Monday, May 27.

"AAA is forecasting Memorial Day travel to be slightly lower this year due to an to an up and down economy, the impact of the end of the payroll tax holiday on working families and a 30-year low in the percentage of working age people in the workforce," said AAA president and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. "Additionally, economic growth in the first quarter was strong, but the impact of the sequester is now beginning to be felt resulting in reduced economic growth expectations. These and other variables are expected to result in few travelers this holiday."

He said, "The primary driver of the decline in holiday travelers is an 8% decrease in the number of people expected to take to the skies this holiday. American travelers are experiencing fee fatigue and frustration with everything from higher fares to airport security. As a result, many are choosing road travel in higher numbers due to the lower cost and convenience it offers. "

Approximately 31.2 million people plan to drive to their destination, an increase of 0.25% from the 31.1 million who drove last year. Almost nine out of 10 holiday travelers (89%) will take to the nation's roadways during the Memorial Day weekend, keeping automobile travel in the traditional lead as the dominant mode of holiday travel transportation.

A survey of intended travelers found that gasoline prices would have no impact on plans for 62% of travelers. Of the remaining 38% of travelers who said gasoline prices would impact their travel plans, 27% plan to economize in other areas; 8% are planning to take a shorter trip, and 3% will travel by an alternate mode of transportation.

Since national gasoline prices peaked at the end of February, motorists nationwide have felt welcome relief at the pump; current gasoline prices are in line with this time last year and not expected to have an effect on travel plans.

More than 2.3 million leisure air travelers (more than 7% of holiday travelers) will arrive at their destination by air, an 8% decrease from last year's 2.5 million air travelers. The remaining 4% of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.

According to the survey of intending travelers, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Memorial Day holiday weekend is expected to be 690 miles, which is 48 miles more than last year's average of 642 miles. Generally a greater distance traveled also means there will be an increase in air travel, but this year is the exception as air travel is expected to decrease 8%. It appears auto travelers will be taking longer road trips as travelers expect fuel to consume a larger share of their travel budget. Last year the shortest trips, those of less than 150 miles, made up 21% of total travel, this year the shortest trips make up only 13% of the total. Those travelers who will take to the skies have shifted towards longer-haul flights.

Median spending during the Memorial Day holiday weekend is expected to be $659, 6% less than the $702 median spending last year. Transportation is expected to consume approximately 28 cents of every dollar. Travelers expect to spend 22% on food and beverage and 20% on lodging.

During the holiday weekend, more than half of intending travelers will plan to partake in visiting with friends/family (59%) and dining (55%). Other popular activities include shopping (44%), going to the beach (32%) and touring and sightseeing (27%).