Bellevue, Wash. (June 23, 2010) – AAA projects the number of Americans traveling this Fourth of July holiday weekend will increase 17.1 percent from 2009, with approximately 34.9 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home. Last year, 29.8 million Americans traveled during the same period. The 2010 Fourth of July holiday travel period is defined as July 1-5, 2010.
While the increase in holiday travel is significant and encouraging, this year’s projection still falls below 2008 Fourth of July travel when 37.8 million Americans traveled. AAA cites the improved economy, pent-up travel demand from last year, and the holiday falling on a weekend as the leading factors for the increase in travel.
Air and car trips to increase, gas prices virtually unchanged
Nationally, trips by automobile are expected to increase by 17.7 percent, or a total of 31.4 million people, compared to last Fourth of July when 26.7 million travelers went by motor vehicle. Holiday motorists will pay nearly the same for gas as they did one year ago. The average price of self-serve regular gasoline nationally is $2.73 per gallon, four cents above last year’s price. Locally, the state average in Washington is $2.98 per gallon, seven cents higher than last Fourth of July, and $2.90 in Idaho, up 21 cents.
Leisure air travel across the country also is expected to grow slightly with 1.56 million holiday flyers expected. This would be an increase of 8.2 percent from one year ago when 1.44 million Americans flew. Trips by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft, will be the means of travel used by six percent of all travelers.
Local travel trends and destinations of choice
Travel in the Pacific Region (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA) is expected to be slightly higher than the national average at 19.3 percent, with 5.45 million people traveling during the holiday period. Approximately 4.72 million Pacific Region travelers plan to go by automobile, an increase of 20.4 percent, and another 400,000 plan to travel by airplane, an increase of 10.3 percent.
Compared to last year, online travel bookings made from April 1 through May 31 by AAA Washington travel clients for air travel and hotel reservations have doubled, an encouraging sign that the economy is improving. For the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the most popular cities for hotel reservations booked on AAA Washington’s website, AAA.com, were Las Vegas, NV; Missoula, MT (a popular stopping point on the way to Yellowstone National Park); West Yellowstone, MT; and Coeur d’Alene, ID.
Gulf Coast impact on travel
As the Deepwater Horizon oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico continues, the situation is changing consistently and the impact on tourism is still unknown. Currently most beaches remain open and while AAA offices have reported member inquiries regarding travel to the Gulf Coast, they have not experienced widespread cancellations. Travelers visit these communities for reasons other than boating and swimming, including visiting family and friends, state and national parks, golfing, shopping, dining and nightlife. Therefore, AAA is projecting an increase in travel in states in the Gulf Coast region as well.
Airfares, hotel and rental car rates increase
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares during the Fourth of July holiday weekend are expected to increase 13 percent from last year while daily car rental rates will only increase four percent. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond lodgings are also expected to increase four percent from a year ago.
Click here for the complete Fourth of July Travel Forecast.
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.
AAA Washington has been serving members and the traveling public since 1904. The organization provides a variety of exclusive benefits, including roadside assistance, discounts, maps and personalized trip planning, to its 990,000 members. In addition, its full-service travel and insurance agencies provide products and services for members and the public. Additional information is available through the company’s 26 offices in Washington and northern Idaho, at AAA.com, or by calling 1-800-562-2582.