Monday, May 19, 2014

AAA Forecasts 2014 Memorial Day Busiest Since Recession

Cocoa Beach, Florida is a popular Memorial Day weekend vacation destination.  Brevard Times / File photo.

ORLANDO, Florida -- This year's Memorial Day holiday travel volume is expected to reach a new post-recession high with 36.1  million Americans taking a trip, according to a AAA travel forecast.  

The 2014 forecast is 2.6% higher than the 10-year historical average and the second highest travel volume since 2000.  The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 22 to Monday, May 26.

AAA Travel projects 36.1 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a 1.5% increase from the 35.5 million people who traveled last year.  88% of those travelers (31.8 million) will travel by automobile, an increase from 31.4 million last year.

“A long and unusually harsh winter gave many Americans the travel bug,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Combine rising temperatures with signs of an improving economy, and travel for the holiday should hit a new post-recession high.”

Economic improvement spurs travel growth

Improvements in several key economic factors are driving the expectation for more holiday travelers this year. “Consumer spending, disposable income, consumer confidence and the employment outlook are trending up which is welcomed news for the travel industry,” continued Jenkins.

The unforgiving winter was a hindrance to economic growth at the beginning of the year but economic factors influenced by weather, such as car and home sales, appear to be resolving themselves now. Indicative of the unusually harsh winter, AAA experienced an increase of nearly 12 percent in battery related calls this winter.

Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans

AAA expects that most drivers will pay lower gas prices by Memorial Day weekend due to rising supplies. AAA expects holiday gas prices to be relatively similar or even slightly less than last year’s national Memorial Day average of $3.63 per gallon, though unexpected developments such as refinery problems or international events could result in higher costs. 

"With many plans already made and budgets set, it is unlikely that gas prices will have a significant effect on travel plans compared to a year ago," Jenkins said.

Travel expenses rise modestly

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase just two percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $169 per night compared to $166 last year. The average hotel rate for AAA Two Diamond hotels has risen 3 percent with an average cost of $124 per night.

Weekend daily car rental rates will average $44, only 1 percent higher than last year. Airfares are experiencing the largest increase. The average round-trip, discounted fares for the top 40 U.S. routes have increased 6 percent to $227 from $215 last year.

National & State Numbers Auto Travel Air Travel Other Travel Total Projected Travelers
Nationwide 31.8 million 2.6 million 1.7 million 36.1 million
Florida 1.6 million 138,445 61,553 1.8 million
Georgia 926,610 76,564 34,040 1 million
Tennessee 687,434 54,248 32,353 774,035