Late Labor Day to Reduce Number of Vacations, but will be Third Busiest Labor Day Weekend this Decade, AAA says
Orlando, Fla., August 21, 2009
Lure of a deal and a last long summer weekend will outweigh economic concerns for many.
AAA today projected the number of Americans traveling on vacation this Labor Day weekend will be heavily impacted by when Labor Day falls on the calendar. Approximately 39.1 million travelers are expected to take a trip of 50 miles or more away from home, a decrease of 13.3 percent from 2008 when Labor Day travel was the highest this decade. Labor Day fell on Sept. 1 last year allowing for a long weekend trip before a new school year started in many regions of the country. This year, however, Labor Day is Sept. 7, when the school year has already started for many children.
Last year, 45.1 million Americans traveled during the Labor Day holiday weekend period; the most this decade. Despite this year’s sizeable projected decline of 6 million travelers, AAA said it expects more Americans to travel this holiday than were projected to travel over this year’s 4th of July holiday weekend. AAA projected 37.1 million Americans would travel during the Independence Day holiday; typically the busiest automobile travel holiday of the year. This will also be the third strongest weekend for Labor Day travel this decade. The second busiest year was 2003 when 41.6 million Americans took a Labor Day weekend trip.
AAA’s projections are based on research conducted by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA earlier this year as part of an agreement to jointly analyze travel trends during the major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. For purposes of this forecast the Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as trips that include travel of 50 miles or more from home in one direction during the period from Thursday, Sept. 3 to Monday Sept. 7.
Last Labor Day weekend the nationwide average price of self-serve, regular gasoline dropped to $3.68 per gallon after peaking at an all-time record of $4.11 per gallon on July 17, AAA said. This combined with the earliness of the holiday and the emergence of end of summer discounts on traveler, caused large numbers of travelers to make a last minute decision to take a holiday trip. This year, AAA expects the nationwide average price of self-serve, regular gasoline to be approximately one dollar per gallon less expensive than it was one year ago; or about $2.60 per gallon. Continued discounts and deals offered by travel providers will also make Labor Day vacations attractive, AAA said.
“AAA expects this Labor Day holiday weekend to be the third busiest of the decade, even though the number of travelers will be down from one year ago,” said AAA President & CEO, Robert L. Darbelnet. “However, with Labor day falling a week later this year when many children will have returned to school, the decline may more to do with the calendar than with the economy. Our forecast shows Labor Day travel will be up over this summer’s 4th of July holiday and that’s a positive sign.”
Travel bargains remain plentiful
Examples of travel deals and discounts available now from AAA’s travel agency network include:
- AAA members receive 15 percent or more off the best rates at Sheraton and Four Points by Sheraton hotels for weekend stays with no minimum stay requirements. Sheraton has recently remodeled more than 50,000 guest rooms in North America.
- Travel Impressions is granting travelers that book through a AAA Travel Agency a $400 credit per room on air travel to Mexico when combined with a stay at a Palace Resort.
- Three night trips to Hawaii are available from select west coast cities for less than $500 for those that book with Pleasant Holidays via a AAA Travel Agency. Visits to popular Mexican resort cities via Pleasant Holidays are discounted from 30 to 40 percent.
- Disney is offering travelers who book a AAA Vacations experience several different incentives. At Walt Disney World in Florida, travelers who book a 5-night package to the Walt Disney World Resort through AAA Vacations can get the Disney Quick-Service Dining Plan For Free. At Disneyland Resort in California, AAA Travel Agency clients can save $400 on a four-night package at one of the Hotels of Disneyland with four-day Theme Park tickets.
- Travelers who book an ocean view stateroom to Europe, the Panama Canal or Caribbean on Celebrity Cruises through AAA by October 1 in will receive an exclusive shipboard credit of up to $100 per stateroom.
Greater share of weekend travelers select auto travel
Four percent of Holiday vacationers are expected to travel by airline for Labor Day trips, while those traveling by automobile will increase to 84 percent, AAA said. Automobile vacations will be taken by 32.9 million travelers and air trips by only 1.5 million travelers. This will be the lowest number of trips by air this decade for the Labor Day holiday weekend. Those traveling by other modes – which can include trains, cruises, buses, RVs, personal watercraft, motorcycles, or trips that use multiple modes of travel – are expected to account for 4.8 million or 12 percent of Labor Day holiday travelers.
Average spending will be $968 and average distance traveled will be 645 miles
Labor Day travelers expect to spend approximately $968 per household this upcoming holiday weekend. Transportation and accommodations will account for 47 percent of trip spending, while food and beverage will absorb another 22 percent of the holiday budget. Shopping, entertainment and recreation will account for 27 percent of spending on average. “Other” spending is four percent.
Labor Day travelers will journey an average of 645 miles roundtrip this upcoming holiday weekend. More than one third (37 percent) of travelers will stay relatively close to home, with expected round trips of 250 miles or less. Slightly more than one third (34 percent) of weekend travelers will log between 251 and 700 miles. And 28 percent will travel over 700 miles round trip.
Airfare and lodging costs will be lower
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index – a monitor of pricing in 20 popular cities across the US for hotel and car rentals, as well as 40 pairs of cities for air travel pricing – 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 2009 through August 2009, the lowest fares have been less than the same timeframe in 2008. Car rental rates are up seven percent with consumers paying an average of $43 per day compared to $40 a year ago. Rates for AAA Three Diamond and Two Diamond lodgings are expected to be 12 percent less than last year with travelers spending an average of $137 per night for Three Diamond properties. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond lodgings will pay an average of $101 per night.
Holiday Forecast Methodology
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Global Insight has developed a unique approach to forecasting actual travel that explicitly 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 intentions figures act as a leading indicator, but do not constitute the forecast itself. Instead, travel intentions overlay other key travel drivers along with past trends in an effort to project what Americans will actually do. The approach recognizes Americans do not always behave as they say they will.
The actual travel figures come from the ongoing travel panel database of D.K. Shifflet & Associates, the premier source of American travel volume and behavior. DKSA interviews over 50,000 American households per month in an effort to track trip incidence, composition, behavior, and spending… all after the trips have been taken.
As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members 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 clubs can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.
* The first two holiday travel forecasts conducted by IHS Global Insight and AAA (Memorial Day and July 4th 2009) utilized an initial nationwide sampling of 2,700 households to collect at least 405 respondents planning a holiday trip. These respondents were interviewed in detail about their intended trips. Beginning with the 2009 Labor Day holiday travel forecast, 1,350 households are being included in the initial survey; however, at least 405 respondents will continue to be interviewed in detail about their intended trips.
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