Thursday, 15 December, 2011 9:18 PM
Projects 91.9 Million Americans Will Travel During Year-End Holidays,
Up 1.4 Percent
travel volume will be second highest in past ten years, representing
nearly 30 percent of U.S. population.
-- AAA forecasts 91.9 million Americans will travel 50
miles or more from home during the 2011-12 Year-End holiday travel
season, a 1.4 percent increase over the 90.7 million people who
traveled one year ago. This year's expected Year-End holiday travel
volume is the second highest in the past decade and represents 30
percent of the total U.S. population. The 11-day Year-End holiday
period is the longest holiday travel season of the year, affording
many more Americans time to visit family or take vacations. AAA
defines the Year-End holiday travel season as Friday, December 23,
2011 to Monday, January 2, 2012.
"It's a positive
sign for the travel industry that so many Americans are planning
to travel this holiday season, collectively contributing to the
second-highest year-end holiday travel volume in the past ten years,"
said Bill Sutherland, vice president, AAA Travel Services. "As
our lives get busier, it is so important to create opportunities
for the rest and rejuvenation that result from vacation travel and
connecting with family and friends, especially during the holidays."
are continuing at a very slow pace, and consumer surveys show active
concern and pessimism over that pace. The measure of economic activity,
real gross domestic product, is expected to increase for the fourth
quarter of 2011 by 1.5 percent compared to the fourth quarter of
2010. While 1.5 percent growth is still slow, it is a slight increase
over the expected 1.3 percent fourth quarter growth predicted only
one month ago, and the primary factor expected to drive this year's
modest increase in expected Year-End holiday travel.
While pent-up demand
was projected to inspire significant Thanksgiving holiday travel
growth this year, holiday travel at the end of the year is less
cyclical so pent-up demand has less effect. Travel during the Year-End
holiday period did not see the dramatic drop in travel following
the 2008 recession that other holiday periods experienced. The 2008-09
Year-End holiday travel volume of 85.7 million was only 8.5 percent
less than the 93.7 million Year-End holiday travel during the 2006-07
peak. Year-End holiday travel has grown each year since 2008-09;
89.5 million in 2009-10; 90.7 million in 2010-11; 91.9 million this
Fifty-nine percent of
intending travelers feel the economy has either no impact on their
travel plans or they feel like things have improved for them. The
remaining 41 percent state an intention to scale back travel plans
due to economic concerns. Last year, 67 percent of intending travelers
stated that their travel plans were not impacted by the economic
conditions at that time. Given current economic conditions, a majority
of travelers reporting no economic impact on their travel plans
is a positive sign for the travel industry and another reminder
of just how important traveling is to Americans.
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 2011-12 Year-End
Holiday Travel Forecast can be found at NewsRoom.AAA.com.
Automobile is top transportation choice, increases 2.1 percent
Approximately 83.6 million
people (91 percent of holiday travelers) plan to take to the nation's
roadways this Year-End holiday travel season, a 2.1 percent increase
compared to 2010-11 when the number of auto travelers totaled 81.9
million. This year's projected automobile travel volume is the second
highest in the past decade and only 100,000 less than the 2006-07
auto travel peak of 83.7 million. Automobile travel remains the
preferred choice of transportation for 2011-12 Year-End holiday
travelers as nearly 27 percent of the total U.S. population will
hit the road.
The current national average price for regular unleaded gasoline
is approximately $3.27 per gallon, about 29 cents more than one
year ago. However, the national average price is about 71 cents
less than this year's peak price of $3.98 on May 5.
Air travel down
nearly 10 percent
About 5.4 million leisure
travelers (six percent of holiday travelers) will fly during the
Year-End holiday travel period, a 9.7 percent decrease from 2010-11.
This year's air travel volume is the seventh lowest in the past
ten years as nearly two million fewer Year-End holiday travelers
are expected to fly than did during the decade's air travel peak
in 2002-03. Jet fuel costs and capacity cuts continue to impact
holiday air travel. According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index, Year-End
holiday airfares are expected to be 21 percent higher than last
year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $210 for the top
40 U.S. air routes. This is the highest Year-End holiday average
airfare in the past five years.
Train, bus, other
modes of travel increases 4.2 percent
Other modes of travel
(bus, trains, watercraft, multi-modal travel) will make up the remaining
three percent of the total person-trips, with 2.9 million people
expected to travel by these modes, 4.2 percent higher than 2010-11.
Economic conditions are dictating that some Americans that otherwise
might travel by air or automobile are traveling by these alternative
modes of transportation.
Hotel rates increase;
car rental rates decrease
According to AAA's Leisure
Travel Index, hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond or mid-range lodgings
are expected to increase a modest one percent from last year with
travelers spending an average of $126 per night compared to $125
one year ago. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels
can expect to pay four percent more at an average cost of $92 per
night, up from $88 last year. Daily car rental rates are $40 on
average, a 21 percent decrease from one year ago and the lowest
seen in the past five years. As the demand for used cars fluctuates
or car manufacturers offer fewer opportunities for buying back fleets
it can become harder for car rental companies to shrink their fleet
to meet demand. With a larger pool of cars in the market, car rental
companies must lower pricing to match supply and demand.
decreases; median spending increases
According to a survey
of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans
during the Year-End holiday travel season is expected to be 726
miles, a decline from 2010-11 when travelers planned to log an average
of 1,052 miles. Propelling the reduction in expected travel miles
is the 9.7 percent decline in air travel and indications that many
air travelers are choosing shorter-distance flights. The percentage
of expected trips with a round trip distance above 1,500 miles decreased
from 23 percent last year to 17 percent this year. Median spending
is expected to be $718, which is a three percent increase from $694
last year. Fuel and transportation costs combine to consume the
largest share of holiday spending (32 percent), followed by shopping
and food and beverages (tied at 19 percent). Other expenditures
include accommodations (15 percent), entertainment and recreation
(12 percent), and other costs (four percent).
More Americans travel
during the Year-End holiday season than during any other holiday
period throughout the year. Our nation's roadways and airports will
be busier than normal, so holiday travelers should be sure to pack
more patience. AAA offers these important travel tips that can help
everyone have an enjoyable and safe Year-End holiday season.
- Plan ahead. Use a travel
planning tool like AAA's TripTik Travel Planner available at AAA.com
to help identify the best driving routes, rest stops, and shop the
latest gas prices. Our nation's highways will be crowded with both
holiday travelers and day-trippers. Continuously monitor weather
conditions along your route and be prepared with contingency plans.
Doing your homework could save valuable time, fuel costs, and improve
- Arrive early. Airports
will be crowded and security steps may be intensified so allow additional
time at your departure airport. For domestic flights, arrive at
least two hours prior to your departure and arrive at least three
hours early for international flights. Busier airports may require
even earlier arrival times. Monitor weather conditions closely,
and before leaving home, visit your airline's website for updates
about the status of your flight.
- Avoid the
3 Deadly D's of Driving:
- Drunk or Drugged Driving.
Remember that impairment begins with the first sip of alcohol.
A designated driver should be alcohol-free, not merely the person
in your party who has consumed the least amount of alcohol. Many
medications have side effects that cause impairment, so read medication
- Drowsy Driving. Get
seven to nine hours of sleep before driving. Take a break every
100 miles or two hours. Do not drive during hours when you routinely
sleep. If you feel tired while driving, pull over to a safe location
and take a 20-to 30-minute nap.
- Distracted Driving.
It is the driver's responsibility to keep eyes, mind and body
fully focused on the task of driving. Assign a passenger to be
the designated texter, talker, and navigator. If traveling alone,
pull over to a safe location to use your cell phone or adjust
your navigation device, then proceed on your trip distraction
free. Child and pet passengers can be distractions to drivers,
so allow another adult passenger to interact with these family
Ninety AAA eTourBook
Guides now available for members to download
For year-end vacation
planning, members can download AAA's free digital eTourBook guides
for smartphones and ereader devices. Refreshed continuously with
new information, each digital guide available for download highlights
a top North American travel destination, complete with AAA Editor's
Picks, listings for AAA Approved and Diamond Rated hotels and restaurants,
attractions, events and nightlife and other proprietary information
available only through AAA. Top downloads for 2011 from AAA.com/ebooks
include Orlando, New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco
and Las Vegas.
Mobile App helps
travelers find directions, fuel prices and more on the go
Travelers concerned about
how fuel prices will impact their travel budget can use the free,
GPS-based AAA TripTik Mobile app to compare prices for all grades
of gasoline at nearby stations. The app also offers all travelers
maps and directions and location information for hotels and points
In addition to the printed
travel guides and maps available at club offices nationwide, AAA
makes trip planning tools accessible online and via mobile devices
travelers use every day. Along with the TripTik Mobile app, AAA
offers iPhone and Android versions of its AAA Discounts, AAA Insurance
and AAA Roadside apps. Using GPS technology, AAA Discounts displays
nearby locations that offer AAA members a Show Your Card & Save
discount. AAA Roadside transmits a user's location and details about
a vehicle breakdown when a member requests AAA Roadside Assistance.
The AAA Insurance app provides step-by-step guidance on how to gather
valuable crash scene information. Membership is not required to
download and use AAA apps but is needed to take advantage of AAA
member features and benefits such as discounts.
As North America's largest
motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than
53 million members with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related
services. Since it's 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