AAA forecasts 42.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a four percent increase from the 40.9 million people who traveled one year ago. This is the first significant increase in any holiday travel this year. The Thanksgiving holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, Nov. 23 to Sunday, Nov. 27.
“This is the first signifi- cant increase in any holiday travel this year,” said Bill Sutherland, vice president, AAA Travel Services. “Memorial Day travel was statistically flat while Independence Day and Labor Day travel experienced decreases of 2.5 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively.”
While primary economic drivers continue to show improvement from one year ago, growth levels are not high enough to support a quick return to pre-recession levels of holiday travel. Rather a slow climb back is expected from 2008, which was a decade-low year for Thanksgiving travel with only 37.8 million Americans taking a trip. With volumes still below historical averages, pent-up demand will be a contributing factor in increased holiday travel, despite current economic conditions.
Total economic activity, measured as real gross domestic product, is expected to grow by just 1.3 percent for the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the fourth quarter of last year. The national unemployment rate is expected to be just fourth-tenths of a percentage point below last year’s level. Personal income, real disposable income and consumer spending are all forecast above last year’s levels. However, the growth rates of these indicators are weaker than last year.
Approximately 38.2 million people (90 percent of holiday travelers) plan to take to the nation’s roadways this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a four percent increase compared to Thanksgiving 2010 when auto travelers totaled 36.8 million. Automobile travel remains the preferred choice of transportation for holiday travelers as it is often more affordable, convenient and flexible.
The current national average price for regular unleaded gasoline is approximately $3.39 per gallon, about 50 cents more than one year ago. However, the national average price is about 59 cents less than this year’s peak price of $3.98 on May 5. In Kentucky, the current average is $3.31, about 47 cents more than last year.