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|AAA Expects 1.7 Percent Increase in Holiday Travel
Americans will travel in
potentially record-high numbers this Christmas-New Year's
holiday, despite travel costs that are up nearly across the
board. AAA estimates that 63.50 million Americans will travel 50
miles or more from home this holiday, a 1.7
percent increase from last year's 62.42 million travelers.
"Double-digit increases from last year in hotel rates, air
fares, and gas prices won't keep people from traveling in record
numbers over the holidays," said Wendy Weigel, vice president,
AAA Minneapolis Travel. "Even with two great Christmas getaway
spots -- Cancun and New Orleans -- still recovering from
hurricanes, more than 63 million of us will hit the skies, seas,
and highways for the holiday." Travel by
motor vehicle has also risen 1.7%. Holiday auto travelers will
find gas prices nationwide currently averaging $2.20 for a
gallon of self-serve regular gasoline -- down approximately 90
cents from the records set over Labor Day weekend, but still 38
cents higher than a year ago. 14% of travelers plan to travel by
airplane, up 1.6 percent from last year. A projected 3.21
million travelers (5 percent) will go by train, bus, or other
mode of transportation, up slightly from 3.13 million a year
ago. "Airports will stay busy across Christmas, Hanukkah, and
New Year's as Americans visit family, escape to tropical
islands, head for cruise ships, hit the ski slopes, and more for
the holidays," said Connie Patava, travel services regional
manager, AAA Minnesota/Iowa. "Unlike the traditional 'obligatory
trips' to visit relatives at Thanksgiving, December offers a
chance for people to take get-away vacations." Travelers
also face much higher prices for hotels and airfares, according
to AAA's Leisure Travel Index. Holiday hotel rates are up 14
percent for AAA-rated Three Diamond hotels, as strong demand
allows hoteliers to raise rates to near their Christmas 2001
peak. Airfares are up 11 percent from last year, but remain
below their peak levels during the 2000 holidays. Rental car
rates are down on average about 2 percent from their top prices
last Christmas. "Travelers waiting to make Christmas plans until
the last minute are finding much higher rates and fewer
options," added Weigel. "Hotel, airline, and car rental
reservations made at aaa.com for this holiday period were booked
an average of 53 days in advance -- nearly double last year's
29-day lead time." Where are travelers headed? The top 10
destinations for hotel bookings at aaa.com for the last two
weeks of December are: 1. Orlando; 2. Las Vegas; 3. Los
Angeles/Anaheim; 4. New York City; 5. San Francisco; 6. San
Diego; 7. Chicago; 8. Ft. Lauderdale; 9. Boston; and 10.
Nashville. The greatest number of Christmas-New Year's auto
travelers will originate in the Southeast with 13.34 million,
followed by the West, 13.11 million; Midwest, 10.35 million; the
Great Lakes, 8.19 million; and the Northeast, 6.54 million.
Small towns and rural areas are the expected destination for 37
percent of holiday
travelers, followed closely by cities, 35 percent. Oceans
and beaches should see 11 percent of travelers, followed by
mountain areas, 8 percent; 2 percent for lake areas, 2 percent
for state/national parks and 2 percent for theme/amusement
parks. Another 3 percent responded with other and 1 percent
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