Thanksgiving travel is expected to rise slightly

Americans will hit the road this Thanksgiving in slightly greater numbers than during last year’s holiday, according to the AAA’s annual forecast. That includes people who are choosing to drive instead of fly as household budgets remain tight.

The prediction was that 43.6 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home over the holiday, up just 0.7% from last Thanksgiving.

But AAA’s forecast was produced from a combination of a traveler survey and an economic analysis before Superstorm Sandy hit the East Coast, and that could affect the actual numbers.

AAA said it doesn’t yet know the full effect the storm will have on travel in the Mid-Atlantic region, but it expects it will be significant.

One thing that does seem sure is that the pent-up demand seen after the recession has largely dissipated. Demand grew a healthy 8% and 6%, respectively, in the two previous Thanksgiving holiday periods even though economic growth was moderate. Now, AAA says it will take a stronger economy to spur a significant jump in travel demand.

“Despite mild improvements in unemployment, the housing market and greater consumer optimism, the economy is still struggling to keep its head above water,” AAA said in its forecast.

The number of travelers forecast to drive, fly or hop on a train or bus this holiday is still 26% below the peak in 2005 and 14% below 2007, according to the pre-Sandy forecast.

Air travel is expected to decline, one sign that many households continue to feel financially pinched. AAA expects 3.14 million people to fly, down from 3.2 million a year earlier. Even with gas at a national average of $3.44 per gallon, driving the family from New England to the Midwest to see the relatives is still cheaper than flying.

And filling up the tank will take less money than people expected when the survey was conducted in early October. That’s because of a dramatic drop in gas prices. The national average has declined 35 cents a gallon in the last month. AAA expects further declines through the holiday. Still, the price of gas on Thanksgiving Day should be around last year’s record of $3.32 per gallon.

Airlines for America, the main trade group for U.S. airlines, expects a modest increase in flying over Thanksgiving. The group’s prediction covers the 12 days starting Nov. 16. AAA defines the Thanksgiving holiday travel period as Wednesday, Nov. 21, to Sunday, Nov. 25.

Nov 14th, 2012 | Posted in Web Resources
No comments yet.
You must be logged in to post a comment.