AAA Projects 2.5% Decrease in Independence Day Travel

Sustained period of expensive fuel prices will offset year-over-year improvement

ORLANDO, Fla. -- AAA forecasts 39 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday weekend, a 2.5% decline from the 40 million people who traveled a year ago. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, June 30 to Monday, July 4.

"AAA is projecting a slight decline in the number of Independence Day travelers mainly due to fuel prices being approximately $1 per gallon higher than last year," said Glen MacDonell, director, AAA Travel Services. "Increased fuel costs are also responsible for a shift in the demographics [image-nocss] of the typical Independence Day traveler as higher prices impact lower-income households more significantly."

The amount of money spent each month on gasoline is unlikely to vary much across household income groups; however, as a share of total spending, fuel is going to consume a larger share of the budget for lower-income households. As a result, the percentage of travelers with a household income of $50,000 or less is expected to decrease from 41% to 33%, while travelers with a household income of more than $100,000 are expected to increase to 35% from 26%.

Approximately 32.8 million people plan to travel by automobile--that isa decline of almostone million auto travelers from the 33.7 million who drove last year. Automobile travel remains the dominant mode of transportation (84% of holiday travelers) despite gasoline prices about $1 per gallon more expensive than a year ago in many parts of the country. If current market conditions persist, AAA said that it expects the national average price for regular gasoline to remain between $3.60 and $3.70 per gallon during the Independence Day holiday weekend.

A survey of intended travelers found that 56% said rising gasoline prices would not impact their travel plans. For the remaining 44% who said rising gasoline prices would impact their travel plans, seven out of 10 will economize in other areas and three out of 10 are planning to take a shorter trip or travel by a different mode of transportation.

A little more than three million leisure travelers (8% of holiday travelers) will fly during the holiday weekend, a 9% increase from last year's 2.75 million air travelers. This increase continues a rebound in air travel that began in 2010 following the lowest years for air travel in the past 10--2009 and 2008. The rising cost of gasoline is a contributing factor to the increase in air travel, as the increasing cost of travel by car is making air travel a more viable option for some travelers despite recent increases in air fares. The remaining 8% of holiday travelers are expected to travel by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft.

According to a survey of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Independence Day holiday weekend is expected to be 573 miles, which is 7% less than last year's average travel distance of 617 miles. Median spending is expected to be $807, an increase of 25% from $644 last year.

AAA provides more than 52 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.

Click hereto view the complete AAA/IHS Global Insight 2011 Independence Day Holiday Travel Forecast, which includes regional breakdowns and other data.

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