Labor Day-related travel is expected to increase 9.9% in the US this year compared to 2009, according to new data from the American Automobile Association (AAA).
34.4M Set to Travel This Labor Day
Last year, AAA data indicates 31.3 million Americans traveled during the Labor Day holiday. This year, approximately 34.4 million travelers will take a trip at least 50 miles away from home. The 2010 Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, September 2 to Monday, September 6.
The increase in travel for Labor Day appears to be the result of economic improvement over the past year, according to AAA. While job growth has been disappointing, gross domestic product, household net worth and consumer confidence have increased, while consumer debt has decreased. AAA says the US travel industry began to gain traction in the fourth quarter of 2009 and that momentum has continued this year.
In addition to economic data, the date of the Labor Day holiday is another variable considered in the forecast. The earlier the holiday falls in September, the more travel tends to occur. Although the growth in Labor Day travel is predicted to be strong at 9.9%, AAA says had the holiday fallen earlier in the month, the forecasted number of travelers would likely be even higher.
Air and Car Trips to Increase
Trips by automobile are expected to increase in popularity with 91% of travelers, or 31.4 million people, reaching their destination by driving. This is an increase of 10.3% from last Labor Day, when 28.5 million travelers went by motor vehicle.
Leisure air travel is expected to account for just 5% of overall travel, with 1.62 million holiday flyers. However, this is an increase of 4.6% from one year ago when 1.54 million flew. Trips by other modes, including rail, bus and watercraft, will be the dominant means of travel used by four percent of all travelers.
Median Spending Increases; Average Distance Traveled Decreases
Based on a survey of traveler intentions, the average distance traveled by Americans this Labor Day holiday weekend is expected to be 635 miles, slightly less than one year ago (645 miles). Median spending is expected to be $697 this Labor Day, nearly $50 more than last year, when median spending was estimated at $650.
Dining (63%); shopping (47%) and visiting with friends and relatives (43 percent) were named as the three top primary activities by travelers this Labor Day weekend.
Airfares, Rental Car Rates Rise
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the Labor Day holiday weekend are expected to increase 9% from last year, with the lowest round-trip rates moving up to $179 for the top 40 US air routes. Weekend daily car rental rates will increase 7% to an average of $46.
Few Consumers See Travel Value Rising
In one bad sign for the summer travel season, relatively few consumers think the value in major travel categories rose between 2009 and 2010, according to a recent survey from Compete.
Slightly more than 20% of consumers said that both the hotel and cruise categories have improved in value since 2009, with cruise edging out hotel for the top spot. However, more than three-quarters of respondents who rated each of these categories as getting better said they were getting “slightly” better as opposed to “much” better.
Meanwhile, only about 9% of respondents said car rentals have improved in value during the past year, and only about 8% said flight has improved in value. As with cruise and hotel, three-quarters or more of respondents who said value is getting better in both these categories said it is getting slightly, rather than much, better.
About the Data: The AAA Labor Day 2010 Travel Forecast, developed in conjunction with IHS Global Insight, combines information from several sources to provide a prospective assessment of likely travel patterns for the upcoming holiday weekend. This report is comprised of two key components; the actual travel forecast and the holiday traveler profile. The actual travel forecast is based on economic conditions while the holiday traveler profile is developed employing survey data on travel behaviors.