By Ben DuBose
HOUSTON -- The American Automobile Association (AAA) projects 33 million Americans will
travel 50 miles or more from home during the Labor Day holiday
weekend, a 2.9% increase from the 32.1 million people who
traveled last year.
That could well increase demand for fuel products such as
gasoline and diesel.
The total number of Labor Day holiday travelers is expected
to reach a new post-recession high, and is the third increase
in holiday travel this year, according to the forecast from AAA
and consulting firm IHS Global Insight.
The Labor Day holiday travel period is defined by the
forecast as Thursday, August 30, to Monday, September 3.
the year, AAAs Memorial Day and Independence Day holiday
travel forecasts projected increases of 1.2% and
Despite a sluggish economy and recent rises in gasoline
prices, the increase in expected travelers is driven by
improving consumer confidence compared to one year ago, the
trade association said.
In the absence of strong economic growth that might
fuel a significant boost in travel volume, it is an encouraging
sign that Americans continue to prioritize travel, said
Bill Sutherland, vice president, AAA Travel Services.
Travel is still within Americas discretionary
Automobile travel up 3.1%
Approximately 28.2 million people (85% of holiday travelers)
will make their Labor Day trip by automobile.
This is a 3.1% increase over the 27.3 million people who took
to roadways in 2011, according to the trade association.
Number of air travelers expected to increase by 3.7%, airfares
Labor Day air travel has been fairly consistent since the
recession bounce back began for the travel industry in 2010,
AAA said. About 2.55 million leisure travelers (8% of holiday
travelers) will fly during the Labor Day weekend, a 3.7%
increase over 2011 when 2.46 million traveled by air.
In 2010, 2.6 million chose to fly, beginning a steady
recovery from the decade-low 1.5 million air travelers in 2009.
Airfares decreased 4% over last year with an average lowest
round-trip rate of $197 for the top 40 US air routes, the AAA
The remaining 7% of Labor Day travelers are expected to use
other modes of transportation, including cruise ship, rail and
bus, accounting for 2.3 million Americans a nominal 0.2%
decrease from 2011.
travel distance, spending both increase
According to the survey of intended travelers, the average
distance traveled during the Labor Day holiday weekend is
expected to be 626 miles, up slightly from last years
average of 608 miles.
The increase in expected air travel is a contributing factor
to the slight lift in the average travel distance, as air trips
typically span longer distances than automobile trips, many
over 1,500 round-trip miles.
Median spending is expected to be $749, a small increase
over the $702 spent a year ago.
Impact of gasoline prices on travel
US gasoline prices have fluctuated and been particularly
sensitive to region variations throughout much of the year, the
On April 5 and 6, motorists saw a year-to-date peak average
price of $3.94/gal for regular gasoline. As of last week, the
average US price of regular gasoline is $3.72/gal, according to
AAA which is 22 cents less than the April peak and 14 cents
more than last years price.
With possible regional exceptions such as Louisiana in the
aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, gas prices are not expected to
have a major impact on Labor Day travel.
Historically, incidents that impact regional gas prices and
regional travel have not impacted nationwide holiday travel,