Published on Thursday, December 18, 2008
AAA projects a slight decline in the number of Americans traveling during the Christmas holiday period. Nearly 63.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Christmas holiday travel period, a decrease of 1.4 million travelers (2.1 percent) from last year's total of 65.3 million. This is the first decline in Christmas holiday travelers since 2002. AAA projected year-to-year decreases in the number of travelers for all five of the major travel holidays this year (Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas).
"Without question, the economic downturn of 2008 eroded the discretionary income many Americans would have spent on travel and, for some, altered their travel plans throughout the year," said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. "However, those traveling this holiday season can take advantage of declining hotel rates and fuel prices more than a dollar per gallon less than a year ago."
More than 52.4 million Americans (82 percent of all holiday travelers) intend to travel by automobile, a 1.2 percent decrease from the 53 million people who drove last year. Motorists across the country, on average, can expect to see gasoline prices about $1.30 per gallon less than last year and 50 cents less than a month ago.
Approximately 8.1 million (13 percent of holiday travelers) expect to travel by airplane, an 8.5 percent decline from the 8.9 million travelers who flew last year. More than 3.33 million Americans plan to travel by train, bus or other mode of transportation. That is an increase of 0.7 percent from a year ago.
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index (LTI), which is based on available rates this holiday, Americans can expect lower hotel rates and higher car rental rates throughout the holiday season. However, travelers should expect different trends in airfares depending upon the week of travel.
For Americans traveling during the week of Christmas, rates for AAA Three Diamond hotels are down an average of three percent compared to last year. On average, travelers renting a vehicle during the week of Christmas will pay two percent more than a year ago for the same period. Air passengers, however, can expect some relief in airfares this Christmas with prices nine percent less than last year.
Those planning to travel the week of New Year's will welcome a significant decline in hotel costs with rates for AAA Three Diamond hotels 16 percent less than a year ago. Car rentals rates are eight percent higher than last year for the same period. Americans traveling by air will pay an average of three percent more for airfares than a year ago.
Car rental rates vary from location to location, so some cities in AAA's LTI show significant increases when compared to last year, while others show significant decreases. AAA's index for car rentals is based on the average lowest intermediate size car daily rate in 20 U.S. airport locations. The rates do not include sales tax, insurance and other miscellaneous charges.
Research for Christmas holiday travel projections are derived from the Travel Industry Association's (TIA) Holiday Travel Forecast Model. The model was developed based on consumer travel intentions and TIA's quarterly travel forecast data. The travel intentions data are collected through an online survey of nearly 2,300 adults nationwide, supplemented by an additional 5,000 Americans surveyed from the top 10 states of origin in the United States. Historical travel volume and other economic data such as GDP, disposable income, employment and travel costs (including fuel prices) are also incorporated into the model. The Travel Industry Association, which conducts special research for AAA, analyzes the data and the forecasts.
As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 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 www.AAA.com.
AAA news releases can be downloaded from www.AAA.com/news.
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