AAA predicts 60% more travelers than last year, still 14% below pre-pandemic levels
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NASHVILLE, Tenn., (May 11, 2021) — AAA expects a significant rebound in the number of Americans planning to travel this Memorial Day holiday weekend. More than 37 million people are expected to travel 50 miles or more between May 27 and May 31. That’s a 60% increase from last year, when only 23 million traveled, the lowest on record since AAA began recording in 2000.
In Tennessee, more than 776,000 are forecast to take a trip during the holiday weekend. That’s an almost 67% increase from last year, when fewer than 466,000 residents traveled, due to the pandemic.
“A year’s worth of pent-up demand is being unleashed this summer, as Americans anticipate the kick off to the season,” said Debbie Haas, Vice President of Travel for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Travel bookings with AAA – The Auto Club Group have surged recently, setting the stage for what should be a busy holiday weekend and an exciting summer.”
“For many people, this will be their first summer vacation in two years, and things will look a little different,” Haas continued. “Because of the pandemic, many theme parks and hotels are running at reduced capacity, and some services are not currently available. Cruise lines are also accepting bookings, but their policies may vary based on whether you’re vaccinated. That’s why we encourage travelers to plan ahead and work with a trusted travel advisor, to ensure they get the best advice and value for their vacation.”
Significant Increases in AAA Travel Bookings
AAA Travel has noted significant increases in online traffic and bookings on AAA.com, particularly for hotels and car rentals, heading into the summer travel season. AAA booking data reveal that domestic travel and road trips remain the biggest drivers of travel recovery in the near term. Orlando and Las Vegas are top Memorial Day destinations this year, both for AAA Travel bookings and TripTik road trip searches.
The top destinations include the following:
AAA Travel Bookings:
When planning a trip, refer to the new AAA Digital TourBook guides, now available for destinations across the U.S., Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean at TourBook.AAA.com. Available on smartphone, tablet or desktop, the new interactive guides feature detailed destination information, must-see attractions, sample itineraries and more.
Huge Increase in Air Travel Expected, but Most Memorial Day Travelers to Take Road Trips
With 34 million Americans planning Memorial Day road trips, auto travel is expected to increase 52% compared to 2020. Nearly 12 million more Americans will travel by car this holiday than in 2020, though this is still 9% less than in 2019. More than 9 in 10 Memorial Day travelers will drive to their destinations, as many Americans continue to substitute road trips for travel via planes, trains and other modes of transportation. The TripTik travel planner on AAA.com and in the AAA App include COVID travel restrictions for destinations, helping travelers plan road trips based on the latest requirements.
After a historically low year of air travel in 2020, this Memorial Day will see nearly 2.5 million Americans boarding airplanes, nearly six times more than last year (+577%). Still, 750,000 or 23% fewer people will take to the skies this holiday compared to 2019. AAA reminds air travelers that masks are required in all airports and on flights.
Meanwhile, just 237,000 Americans are expected to travel by other modes, including bus and train, this Memorial Day. This is the second-lowest volume on record, higher only than the 185,000 who traveled in 2020. In 2021, travel via these modes will be 88% below 2019 levels.
*AAA did not issue a Memorial Day holiday travel forecast in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, actual travel volumes were recorded after the holiday for comparison purposes this year.
Before Road Trips, Prep Your Car—And Your Wallet for Higher Gas Prices
For the 34 million Americans expected to travel by car this Memorial Day, gas prices are trending more than $1 higher than last year, when demand plummeted as much of the country was under stay-at-home orders. However, at $2.72 per gallon, Tennessee gas price averages are now about 13 cents more than this time in May 2019.
“Many Americans are so eager to travel, we don’t expect higher gas prices to interfere with their plans,” said Megan Cooper, spokesperson for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “We typically find when pump prices increase, travelers look for more free activities or eat out less while on vacation, but still take their planned trips.”
Currently, the Colonial Pipeline, which delivers 45% of fuel to the East Coast is offline due to a cyberattack. This outage could contribute to price increases and limited fuel supply ahead of the holiday, but hopefully be resolved ahead of Memorial Day weekend.
AAA urges drivers to fuel up responsibly. A surge in demand can exasperate supply problems. Consider combining trips, waiting until your tank reaches a half or quarter full before refueling. Letting your vehicle’s fuel tank run dry is more than just an inconvenience, it could also lead to costly mechanical problems down the road. AAA advises to keep an eye on your fuel level and fill up before arriving to your final destination. The AAA app can provide insight on gas prices and you can always call ahead to a station to confirm they are open for business.
AAA to Rescue more than 468,000 Americans
Before hitting the road, AAA reminds motorists to plan their route in advance and ensure their vehicle is ready, to help avoid a breakdown along the way. AAA expects to rescue more than 468,000 Americans at the roadside this Memorial Day weekend.
AAA makes it easy to request assistance—by phone or text (1-800-AAA-HELP), app or online—and members can track the service technician’s progress as they make their way to your vehicle. Also, don’t leave home without an emergency roadside kit and continue to pack extra snacks or meals as well as cleaning supplies, including disinfecting wipes.
AAA Advice for traveling this summer
Regardless of how you plan to get to your destination, AAA advises travelers to seek the advice of a knowledgeable travel agent to help plan their trips this Memorial Day. To get started and to learn more, visit AAA.com/Travel. Planning ahead is more important than in past years for hotel rooms, rental cars and even restaurant reservations.
AAA notes that the actual number of holiday travelers could fluctuate as we approach Memorial Day. If there is an increase in reported cases attributed to new COVID-19 variants, some people may decide to stay home, while others may note the strong progress in vaccinations and make last-minute decisions to travel. AAA recommends working with a travel agent, who can help if you need to make any last-minute changes to travel plans as well as explore travel insurance options and help you plan a vacation that meets your needs and comfort-level this summer.
AAA urges those who choose to travel this year to exercise caution and take measures to protect themselves and others as the pandemic continues.
Another factor contributing to the expected increase in travel this holiday is the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) recently updated guidance that fully vaccinated people can travel at low risk to themselves, while taking proper precautions. It’s important to keep in mind that some local and state travel restrictions may still remain in place, however. Travelers can refer to AAA’s COVID-19 Travel Restrictions Map and TripTik.AAA.com for the latest information to help plan their trip.
For travelers who are not vaccinated but choose to travel, CDC recommends that you practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands and get tested before and after travel. Whether you are vaccinated or not, remember masks are required on planes, buses, trains, and other forms of public transportation traveling into, within, or out of the United States and in U.S. transportation hubs such as airports and stations.
AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Markit, a London-based business information provider. For the purposes of this forecast, the Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 27 through Monday, May 31. The five-day holiday period is consistent with previous Memorial Day holiday periods. This forecast was finalized during the week of April 12.
In cooperation with AAA, IHS Markit developed a unique methodology to forecast actual domestic travel volumes, using macroeconomic drivers such as employment, output, household net worth, asset prices including stock indices, interest rates, housing market indicators, and variables related to travel and tourism, including prices of gasoline, airline travel and hotel stays. For the 2021 Memorial Day holiday travel forecast, IHS Markit also examined changes in the IHS Markit containment index regarding COVID?19–related restrictions and activity.
About IHS Markit: