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U.S. Travel Expected to Drop for the First Time in 5 Years This Thanksgiving

Nov 20, 2013 1:00 pm

Skift Take

The number of Americans traveling by air and by car will fall to lowest level since 2009, a disappointing revelation for an industry riding a wave of optimism due to an improving economy.

— Samantha Shankman

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Tami Chappell  / Reuters

Holiday travelers check their bags at a Delta counter as they prepare for Thanksgiving holiday travel at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta, Georgia. Tami Chappell / Reuters


U.S. travel during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend will fall for the first time in five years, dropping 1.5 percent from 2012, as trips by automobile and airplane decline, AAA said today.

About 43.4 million people will journey 50 miles or more from home this year, down from 44 million last year, the nation’s biggest motoring organization said in a statement. It’s the second-highest volume since 2007.

“While the economy continues to improve, the sluggish pace of the recovery is creating uncertainty in the minds of some consumers and therefore AAA is projecting a slight decline” in the number of Thanksgiving travelers, Robert Darbelnet, chief executive officer at AAA, said in the statement.

Automobile transportation will account for 38.9 million of the holiday travelers, a decline of 1.6 percent from the 39.5 million who drove last year and the first drop since 2008. The share of travelers choosing to go by auto remains at 90 percent.

The number of air passengers will fall 3.7 percent to 3.14 million, the least since 2009, according to the report. Air travel, as a percent of total holiday travel, will fall to 7.2 percent from 7.4 percent in 2012. The average lowest round-trip rate is $187 for the top 40 U.S. air routes, compared with $188 last year.

Americans will spend less while traveling more miles during the 2012 holiday period, which runs from Nov. 27 to Dec. 1 with Thanksgiving falling on Nov. 29, a week later than last year.

Travel Spending

Americans will spend approximately $465 per household to travel during the holiday period, down from $498 last year. The average distance journeyed will increase to 601 miles from 588 miles in 2012, AAA said.

Gasoline prices aren’t expected to affect travel plans, AAA said. Travelers may spend more on other items with motor fuel at the lowest levels since 2010.

The average price of a gallon of self-serve gasoline on Nov. 18 was $3.209, down 20.7 cents from a year earlier and 16.1 cents from two years earlier, according to AAA data.

AAA’s projections are based on research by IHS Global Insight of Englewood, Colorado.

Editors: Richard Stubbe and Charlotte Porter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Barbara Powell in Houston at bpowell4@bloomberg.net. To contact the editor responsible for this story: Dan Stets at dstets@bloomberg.net.

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