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ORLANDO, Fla. -- Citing a "waffling" economy and fee fatigue among travelers, AAA Travel forecasted a decline in travel and transportation spending this upcoming Memorial Day weekend. More travelers will take to the road, however, which can be considered positive news for the convenience industry.
AAA projected 34.8 million Americans will journey 50 miles or more from home during the holiday travel period, which began today and lasts through Monday, May 27. This is a 0.9-percent decrease from the 35.1 million people who traveled last year, according to the organization.
"AAA is forecasting Memorial Day travel to be slightly lower this year due to an up and down economy, the impact of the end of the payroll tax holiday on working families and a 30-year low in the percentage of working age people in the workforce," said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. "Additionally, economic growth in the first quarter was strong, but the impact of the sequester is now beginning to be felt, resulting in reduced economic growth expectations. These and other variables are expected to result in few travelers this holiday."
Median spending during the Memorial Day weekend is expected to be $659, which is 6 percent less than the $702 median spending last year. Transportation is expected to consume approximately 28 cents of every dollar, with travelers spending 22 percent on food and beverage. Fifty-five percent of travelers plan to partake in dining.
Other highlights from this year's Memorial Day travel forecast include:
- Eighty-nine percent of travelers (31.2 million) are expected to travel by automobile, an increase from 31.1 million last year.
- Weekend daily car rental rates will average $43, 19 percent more than last year and the highest rate recorded for the Memorial Day holiday since 2009.
- Holiday air travel is expected to decrease 8 percent to 2.3 million from 2.5 million in 2012.
- Memorial Day holiday travel volume is expected to remain above the 12-year historical average of 34.7 million travelers.
- Travelers intend to journey an average of 690 miles, which is higher than last year's average of 642.
AAA expects that auto travelers will be taking longer road trips and expect fuel to consume a larger share of their travel budget. This corresponds to an 8-percent decline in travelers planning the shortest trips of less than 150 miles.
AAA also projected 31.2 million people plan to drive to their destination, an increase of 0.25 percent from the 31.1 million who drove last year. Nearly nine out of 10 travelers (89 percent) will take to the road during Memorial Day weekend, keeping automobile travel in the traditional lead as the dominant mode of holiday travel transportation.
"The primary driver of the decline in holiday travelers is an 8-percent decrease in the number of people expected to take to the skies this holiday," Darbelnet added. "American travelers are experiencing fee fatigue and frustration with everything from higher fares to airport security. As a result, many are choosing road travel in higher numbers due to the lower cost and convenience it offers."
Meanwhile, a survey of intended travelers found that gasoline prices would have no impact on plans for 62 percent, according to AAA. Of the remaining 38 percent who said gas prices would impact their travel plans, 27 percent plan to economize in other areas. Eight percent are planning to take a shorter trip and 3 percent will travel by an alternate mode of transportation.
Current gas prices are in line with this time last year and not expected to have an effect on travel plans. As CSNews Online previously reported, gas prices peaked at the end of February and motorists have found some relief at the pump. Gas prices have been ticking up this past week, however, and are expected to stay high through Memorial Day weekend.