Local & Regional
Tue September 1, 2009
Hitting the Holiday Road
By John Durkee
Tulsa, Ok – AAA today projected the number of Americans traveling this Labor Day weekend will be substantially lower than last year's travel volume. Approximately 39.1 million travelers are expected to take a trip of 50 or more miles from home this year, a decrease of 13.3 percent from the 2008 holiday period when Labor Day travel was the strongest of the decade.
AAA's survey shows travel among Oklahomans will fall 11.7 percent from last year's figures with auto travel down 10.4 percent and air travel plummeting 19.1 percent. Nationally, auto travel is expected to decline 11.8 percent from Labor Day, 2008 and the number of people flying will fall by 20 percent.
"There are really three things at work here producing these lower numbers," said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma, "the sluggish economy, the lateness of the holiday on the 2009 calendar, and the fact that the number of Labor Day travelers in 2008 turned out to be so large, due in part to a late decline in gas prices."
Last year, 45.1 million Americans traveled during the long Labor Day holiday weekend, the most this decade. Despite this year's sizeable decline of 6 million travelers nationwide, AAA predicts more Americans will travel this holiday than did over this year's 4th of July holiday weekend. The auto club projected 37.1 million Americans would travel over the Fourth this year, which is typically the busiest motor vehicle travel holiday of the year. This year will mark the third strongest weekend for Labor Day travel this decade. The second busiest Labor Day was in 2003 when 41.6 million Americans took a holiday trip 50 or more miles from home.
"It appears that many Oklahomans who put off traveling over July 4th have decided to take trips over Labor Day this year," said Mai. "One reason, no doubt, is the cost of gasoline. Pump prices are now averaging about a dollar less than last year."
Today's AAA Fuel Gauge Report (www.aaafuelgaugereport.com) shows self-serve regular now averaging $2.47 across Oklahoma, compared to $3.52 a year ago. The national average is $2.62 today, also $1.05 below what it was on Aug. 26, 2008.
Travel bargains remain plentiful
Continued discounts and deals offered by travel providers are helping make Labor Day vacations attractive, AAA said. Some of the bargains available from AAA's travel agency network include:
* Stays at Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton hotels, which are offering AAA members 15 percent or more off their best rates for weekend stays with no minimum stay requirements.
* Air travel to Mexico via Travel Impressions, which is granting travelers who book through a AAA Travel agency up to a $400 credit per room when that air travel is combined with a stay at a Palace Resort.
* Three-night trips to Hawaii from select West coast cities for less than $500 per person for those who book with Pleasant Holidays via AAA Travel Agency. Visits to popular Mexican resort cities via Pleasant Holidays are discounted from 30 to 40 percent.
* Special Disney deals for travelers who book AAA Vacations packages. At Walt Disney World in Florida, travelers who book a five-night package at Walt Disney World Resort through AAA Vacations can get the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan at no charge. At Disneyland Resort in California, AAA Travel agency clients can save $400 on four-night packages at one of the Hotels of Disneyland with four-day theme park tickets. Kids 17 and under cruise free with Disney Cruise Line on select April to May, 2010 Mediterranean cruises when sharing a stateroom with two full-fare adults.
* Shipboard credits of up to $100 per stateroom for travelers who book ocean view staterooms on ships to Europe, the Panama Canal or the Caribbean on Celebrity Cruises at AAA Travel by October 1.
Only four percent of all Labor Day travelers will be flying this year, AAA predicts, while automobile travel will increase to 84 percent of all trips. Auto vacations will be taken by 32.9 million travelers and air trips will total only 1.5 million. This will be the lowest number of travelers flying this decade over a Labor Day holiday weekend. Travel by other modes - which includes trains, cruises, buses, RVs, personal watercraft, motorcycles, or trips that use multiple modes of travel - are expected to account for 12 percent of Labor Day holiday travel, or trips by 4.8 million Americans.
Airfare and lodging costs will be lower
According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index (LTI), the lowest average published airfares over the Labor Day holiday weekend are expected to decrease 17 percent from last year as air passengers will pay, for example, as little as $88 for a round-trip ticket from Detroit to Orlando. From February through August of this year, the lowest fares have been less than during the same timeframe in 2008.
Car rental rates are up seven percent this year, with consumers paying an average of $43 per day compared to $40 a year ago. This year's LTI shows rates for rooms at AAA Three Diamond and Two Diamond-rated hotels and motels are expected to be twelve percent less than last year, with travelers spending an average of $137 per night at Three Diamond properties and $101 per night at Two Diamond lodgings.
AAA's LTI monitors prices in 20 popular cities across the U.S. for hotel and car rentals, and it gauges the cost of flying between 40 pairs of U.S. cities.
AAA's projections are based on research conducted by IHS Global Insight that considers current economic conditions, past holiday travel trends and behavior, and the recent assessment of pre-holiday American travel intentions derived from a survey of 1,350 American households. The complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2009 Labor Day holiday forecast can be found at AAA.com/news.
As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members (nearly 340,000 in Oklahoma) with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its 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 Oklahoma can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.