AAA Projects Memorial Day Travel to Decline by 0.9 Percent as Auto Travel Increases Slightly and Air Travel Declines by Eight Percent


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An up and down economy, fee fatigue, higher fares and travel frustration top causes for the decline

ORLANDO, FL--May 22, 2013: AAA Travel projects 34.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a 0.9 percent decrease from the 35.1 million people who traveled last year.  The anticipated decline in holiday travel is predominately due to a decline in air travel of eight percent, 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 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. "

Highlights from 2013 Memorial Day Travel Forecast include:

  • Memorial Day holiday travelers to total 34.8 million, a decrease of 0.9 percent from the 35.1 million who traveled last year
  • Eighty-nine percent of travelers (31.2 million) to travel by automobile, an increase from 31.1 million last year
  • Holiday air travel expected to decrease eight percent to 2.3 million from 2.5 million in 2012
  • Memorial Day holiday travel volume is expected to remain above the 12-year historical average of 34.7 million
  • Median spending is expected to decrease more than six percent to $659, compared to $702 in 2012 with transportation costs consuming about 28 cents of every travel dollar.
  • Travelers intend to journey an average of 690 miles which is higher than last year's average of 642 miles  

"The primary driver of the decline in holiday travelers is an eight percent decrease in the number of people expected to take to the skies this holiday," Darbelnet said. "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."

Automobile Travel Only Mode of Transportation to Expect Increase

Approximately 31.2 million people plan to drive to their destination, an increase of 0.25 percent from the 31.1 million who drove last year.  Almost nine out of ten holiday travelers (89 percent) 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.

Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans

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

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

Air Travelers to decline by eight percent

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

Average travel distance increases

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 eight percent. 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 percent of total travel, this year the shortest trips make up only 13 percent of the total. Those travelers who will take to the skies have shifted towards longer-haul flights.

Median spending is expected to decrease as travelers prioritize family and friends

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

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

Car rental rates highest in four years, hotel rates rise modestly

According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase over four percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $166 per night compared to $160 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels remained unchanged with an average cost of $120 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $43, 19 percent more than last year and the highest rate recorded for the holiday since 2009.

AAA offers digital travel planning resources

AAA's digital tools for travel planning 'on the go' include eTourBook guides for 101 top North American destinations, available free to members at AAA eBooks . Choose from city titles, like the award-winning Las Vegas, regions, like Wine Country, and National Parks.

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