TAMPA, Fla., (June 22, 2011) –
AAA forecasts 39 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home during the Independence Day holiday weekend—a 2.5 percent decrease from the 40 million people who traveled last year. Florida (1.9 million total travelers) and Tennessee (701,127 total travelers) are expected to see a 2.7 percent decrease in overall travel; while Georgia (1 million total travelers) is projected to have a 2.4 percent drop in travel for the holiday weekend. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4.
“AAA projects a slight decrease in the number of Independence Day travelers as a result of gas prices averaging a dollar more per gallon than last year,” said Brent Hubele, vice president, AAA Travel. “As with the Memorial Day holiday, the rising cost of fuel is having a more significant impact on those with lower household discretionary spends and has shifted the demographics of the typical Independence Day traveler.”
Although the amount of money spent each month on gasoline is unlikely to vary much across household income groups, the share of total spending on fuel is going to consume a larger portion of the budget for lower income households. As a result, the percentage of travelers with a household income of $50,000 or less is expected to decrease from 41 percent to 33 percent, while travelers with a household income of more than $100,000 is expected to increase to 35 percent from 26 percent last year.
Auto Travel Projected to Decrease 3 Percent from Last Year
Approximately 32.8 million people plan to drive nationwide—a decrease of almost one million auto travelers from the 33.7 million who drove last year. Florida is projected to have 1.7 million auto travelers, a 3.8 percent decrease from last year. Georgia will see a 3.5 percent decrease in auto travel with 903,402 projected travelers. Tennessee is expected to have a 6.2 percent decrease in auto travel with approximately 619,502 auto travelers. Despite the declines, auto travel still remains the dominant mode of transportation for the holiday weekend, making up 84 percent of all holiday travelers.
Number of Air Travelers Expected to Increase 9 Percent Nationwide
Nationwide, a little more than 3 million leisure travelers (8 percent of total holiday travelers) will fly this holiday weekend, a 9 percent increase from last year’s 2.75 million air travelers. Florida will see a 21.2 percent increase in air travel with 154,241 projected air travelers compared to the 127,299 last year. Georgia will also see a sharp increase in air travel of 21.5 percent with 83,485 air travelers compared to the 68,711 last year. Tennessee will see a slight increase of 2.1 percent in air travel of 30,856 air travelers compared to the 30,226 last year
The rising costs of gasoline as well as the shift in the traveler profile are contributing factors to the increase in air travel. For many, the increased cost of auto travel makes flying a more viable option, despite recent increases in air fares. The remaining 8 percent of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes of transportation such as rail, bus, or watercraft.
Airfares, Hotel, and Car Rental Rates to Increase this Year
Independence Day holiday airfares are expected to be 11 percent more than last year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $213 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase 3 percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $147 per night compared to $143 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay 8 percent more at an average cost of $110 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $56, a 3 percent increase over a year ago, according to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index.
Average Travel Distance Down 7 Percent; Median Spending Up 25 Percent
The average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 573 miles, 7 percent less than last year’s average travel distance of 617 miles. However, median spending is expected to be $807, an increase of 25 percent from $644 last year.
AAA Offers Mobile and Digital Travel Planning Resources
Travelers concerned about how fuel prices will impact their travel budget can use AAA’s free, GPS-based TripTik® Mobile application to compare prices for all grades of gasoline at nearby stations. TripTik Mobile is available for iPhone and Android devices. The TripTik Mobile app also offers maps and directions, as well as pinpoints AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotel and restaurant information complete with AAA inspector notes, plus details about attractions, events and Approved Auto Repair facilities.
AAA also offers iPhone and Android versions of AAA Discounts and AAA Roadside. Using GPS technology, AAA Discounts displays nearby locations that offer AAA members a Show Your Card & Save discount and AAA Roadside transmits a user’s location and details about a vehicle breakdown when a member requests AAA Roadside Assistance. Membership is not required to download and use AAA apps, but is needed to take advantage of the available AAA member features and benefits.
AAA Auto Club South is the fourth largest affiliate of AAA and serves more than 4.1 million members in Florida, Georgia, Middle/West Tennessee, and Puerto Rico. Since its founding in 1938, AAA Auto Club South has worked to protect and advance freedom of mobility and improve travel safety.
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 2011 Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast can be found at AAA.com/media.