AAA projected Wednesday that 42.3 million Americans (13.3 percent of the population) will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Independence Day holiday weekend, a 4.9 percent increase over the 40.3 million people who traveled last year.
The expected 2012 Independence Day holiday travel volume will tie the past decade?s previous high mark set in 2007 and represents a nearly 42 percent increase from the 29.8 million travelers in 2009, the year with the fewest Fourth of July travelers in the last 10 years. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Tuesday, July 3 to Sunday, July 8.
In the Pacific Region, (AK, CA, HI, OR, WA), Fourth of July travel is expected to increase by five percent, with 6.5 million people or 12.7 percent of the population taking trips. The regional economy is realizing positive growth in some areas and the demand for holiday travel here is expected to grow modestly.
Since July 4 falls on a Wednesday, the calendar will play a role in driving holiday travel volume as the mid-week holiday expands the traditional five-day travel period to six days and provides the option of including a weekend and two week days on either side of the actual holiday. When asked about day of departure, fifty-four percent of people intending to travel this holiday plan to begin their trip prior to the start of the work-week that includes July 4. Response percentages by trip departure day are:
? 25 percent - Friday, June 29
? 16 percent - Saturday, June 30
? 13 percent - Sunday, July 1
? 11 percent - Monday, July 2
? 19 percent - Tuesday, July 3
? 16 percent - Wednesday, July 4
?AAA?s projection for a decade-high number of Independence Day travelers is being fed by a mid-week holiday and lower gas prices, in addition to Americans? appetite for travel,? says AAA Oregon/Idaho Public Affairs Director Marie Dodds.
?This is similar to what we saw over Memorial Day and is the second major holiday this year where people are determined to travel but they want to economize and are actively seeking value-added travel options and activities,? says Doreen Loofburrow, Vice President of Travel for AAA Oregon/Idaho. ?We view the projected increase in travel as a positive signal even though it's surrounded by a mixed bag of economic drivers."
Loofburrow adds, ?One way families can better budget their time and money is by using travel agents to plan their trips. Travel agents know the best things to see and do and can give you the best bang for your travel dollars. And you don?t have to spend hours and hours at a computer making travel arrangements. In addition, your travel agent will be there to help if something comes up during your trip.?
Impact of gasoline prices on travel plans
The price of gasoline is another factor expected to play a role in spurring intentions to travel this Independence Day holiday period. The national average reached its year-to-date peak of $3.94 a gallon on April 6 and has steadily decreased by then. The West Coast, however, saw skyrocketing gas prices this spring due to a number of refinery closures that led to tight gasoline supplies. Oregon?s average peaked for the year so far on June 1 at $4.27 a gallon, just shy of the all time record high of $4.29 set on July 3, 2008.
The current national average price of regular gasoline is $3.49 per gallon, 45 cents lower than the April peak and 16 cents less than this time last year. Oregon?s current average is $3.90, 37 cents lower than the June 1 peak and 7 cents more than a year ago.
Automobile travel up four percent, highest auto travel volume in past decade
Approximately 35.5 million people (11.2 percent of the population) plan to travel by automobile setting the high-water mark for the decade, as 84 percent of all Independence Day holiday travelers choose this traditionally dominant mode of transportation. This is a four percent increase over the 34.1 million people who traveled by auto last year.
In the Pacific Region, 5.1 million (10 percent of the population) or 78 percent of all travelers are expected to travel by car, an increase of 3.8 percent over last year.
Number of air travelers expected to increase by nine percent, airfares unchanged
Slightly more than 3.2 million leisure travelers (eight percent of holiday travelers or one percent of the population) will fly during the Independence Day holiday period, a nine percent increase over the 2.9 million air travelers in 2011. This year?s increase is the third consecutive year of rising Independence Day holiday air travel volume, following the decade low 1.4 million air travelers in 2009.
In the Pacific Region, 770,000 people are expected to travel by air (1.5 percent of the population), an increase of 9.6 percent over last year. That means about 12 percent of all travelers in this region will fly to their destinations. Dodds says, ?The Pacific region typically sees a higher than average share of its population expected to travel by air, as we tend to travel greater distances than people in other parts of the country. This is indeed the case for Independence Day 2012.?
Airfares are flat year over year with an average lowest round-trip rate of $200 for the top 40 U.S. air routes in both 2011 and 2012, according to AAA?s Leisure Travel Index. A longer holiday period and stable airfares are spurring this increase.
The remaining eight percent of holiday travelers are expected to use other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ship, accounting for 3.6 million travelers - a 10 percent increase over last year and the second highest volume in the past ten years.
Travelers to experience increases in hotel rates, decreases in car rental rates