AAA: Labor Day Travel Forecasted to Decrease 2.4 Percent

August 24, 2011 Updated Aug 24, 2011 at 12:20 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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AAA: Labor Day Travel Forecasted to Decrease 2.4 Percent

August 24, 2011 Updated Aug 24, 2011 at 12:20 PM EDT

BUFFALO, N.Y., (WKBW-Release)

August 24, 2011 – AAA is predicting 31.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during Labor Day weekend, a 2.4 percent decrease from the 32.3 million people who traveled in 2010. The Labor Day travel period is defined as Thursday, September 1 to Monday, September 5.

“The decline in our travel forecast is attributed to recent economic uncertainty and increasing airfares,” said Tom Chestnut, President/CEO of AAA Western and Central New York. “The potential for a greater increase in automobile travel exists as dipping gasoline prices may influence some last-minute travel decisions.”

The decrease in expected travelers is a result of a mixed economic outlook, consumer uncertainty regarding the overall economy, and recent downturns in economic factors that affect discretionary income, which is particularly relevant to the travel and tourism industry.

Auto Travel Up Slightly, Leads all Modes

Approximately 27.3 million people (87 percent of all travelers) plan to take to the nation’s roadways over Labor Day; a minor increase of 0.5 percent, but a three percent increase in the total share of travelers from last year’s 84 percent. Auto travel remains the dominant mode of all holiday transportation.

Impact of Gasoline Prices

The current national average price for regular unleaded gasoline is approximately $3.57 per gallon, 87 cents higher than one year ago; but down nearly 10 percent from their peak in May. Drivers statewide are paying an average of $3.85 per gallon, while the average price for a gallon of self-serve regular is $3.78 in the Buffalo Niagara region as of this morning.

Seventy-one percent of intended Labor Day weekend travelers said gasoline prices would not impact their travel plans. Of the remaining 29 percent, 20 percent plan to economize in other areas, with the remaining nine percent divided between changing their mode of travel and taking shorter trips.

Air Travel Down

Almost 2.5 million leisure travelers (eight percent) will fly during Labor Day weekend, a 1.9 percent decrease from 2010. Rising fuel costs, combined with steady air travel demand, have resulted in rising airfares over the past few months. Airfares are expected to be 13 percent higher than last year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $202. Labor Day’s expected decline is the first for a major travel holiday in 2011.

Other Transportation Modes also Down

Other modes of travel, such as trains, watercraft and multi-modal means, will make up the remaining five percent of total person-trips (1.7 million travelers), down from the 2010 share of eight percent, but above the four percent seen in 2009.

Hotel Costs on the Rise, Car Rental Rates Lower

Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are expected to increase six percent from one year ago with travelers spending an average of $148 per night compared to $139 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay eight percent more at an average cost of $110 per night. Weekend daily car rental rates will average $43, a seven percent decrease from one year ago.

Average Distance Down, Spending Unchanged

The average distance traveled during the Labor Day weekend is expected to be 608 miles, only slightly less than last year’s average of 635 miles. Median spending is expected to be $702, statistically close to the $697 spent last year. Fuel and transportation costs combine to consume the largest share of holiday spending (27 percent), followed by accommodations (22 percent), food and beverages (21 percent), shopping (13 percent), entertainment and recreation (12 percent), and other costs (five percent).

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research conducted by IHS Global Insight, a Boston-based economic research and consulting firm. AAA teamed with IHS Global Insight in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.

As Upstate New York’s largest member services organization, AAA provides nearly 880,000 members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive related services. Since its founding in 1900, AAA has been a leading advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. Visit AAA at www.AAA.com.