Labor Day travel by South Dakotans to rise by 11%, predicts AAA

RAPID CITY, S.D. (8/26/10) — Travel by South Dakotans will be up 11 percent over the holiday period last year, AAA reports. Of the 115,000 South Dakotans expected to travel, 102,937 will drive, an 11.5 percent jump over 2009 figures, and 3,217 will fly, an increase of 5.6 percent.

Barring any major tropical storm activity in the Gulf Coast region, AAA expects the South Dakota average price of self-serve regular gasoline to be between $2.70 and $2.80 per gallon during this holiday weekend. Today’s AAA Fuel Gauge Report (www.AAAFuelGaugeReport.com) shows the South Dakota average at $2.747, about 13 cents more than on Aug. 26, 2009.

AAA today projected the number of Americans traveling nationwide this Labor Day weekend will increase 9.9 percent from Labor Day of 2009, with approximately 34.4 million travelers taking a trip at least 50 miles away from home. Last year, 31.3 million Americans traveled during the Labor Day holiday. The 2010 Labor Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, September 2 to Monday, September 6.

“While media reports on the state of the U.S. economy are mixed, many Americans are apparently still interested in taking one more trip before the summer travel season comes to a close,” said Mark Madeja, spokesman for AAA South Dakota. “AAA travel agents are continuing to report strong increases in the number of travelers making advanced reservations. Hotel, car and vacation package reservations for the upcoming Labor Day weekend are up more than ten percent compared to last year. ”

The increase in travel for Labor Day appears to be the result of economic improvement over the past year. While job growth and home sales have been disappointing, gross domestic product, household net worth and consumer confidence have increased and consumer debt has decreased. The U.S. travel industry began to gain traction in the fourth quarter of 2009 and that momentum has carried over into this year.

“In addition to economic data, the date of the Labor Day holiday is another variable considered in the forecast,” Madeja said. “The earlier the holiday falls in September, the more people tend to travel. Although the growth in Labor Day travel is predicted to be strong, had the holiday fallen earlier in the month, the forecasted number of travelers would likely be even higher.”

Trips by automobile are expected to increase in popularity across the country with 91 percent of travelers, or 31.4 million people, reaching their destination by driving. This is an increase of 10.3 percent from last Labor Day when 28.5 million travelers went by motor vehicle. Leisure air travel is expected to account for just five percent of overall travel with 1.62 million holiday flyers. This is an increase of 4.6 percent 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.

Today’s national average price for self-serve regular unleaded stands at $2.688, AAA says, six cents above the price one year ago. The auto club expects the national average to stay within the $2.65 to $2.75 range over the long holiday weekend.

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. Travelers say dining (63 percent), shopping (47 percent) and visiting with friends and relatives (43 percent) are the top three activities they’ll engage in during the upcoming holiday.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares over the Labor Day holiday weekend are expected to increase nine percent from last year with the lowest round-trip rates moving up to $179 for the top 40 U.S. air routes. Weekend daily car rental rates will increase seven percent to an average of $46. Hotel rates for AAA Three Diamond-rated lodgings are expected to increase six percent from a year ago with travelers spending an average of $139 per night compared to $132 last year. Travelers planning to stay at AAA Two Diamond hotels can expect to pay two percent more at an average cost of $102 per night.

AAA offers a variety of travel planning tools including free TourBook travel guides and maps for members and the TripTik Travel Planner, also available free to travelers at AAA.com. Three iPhone apps offer access to AAA products and services on the go. The AAA TripTik Mobile app provides gas prices, directions and information on hotels, restaurants and attractions. The AAA Discounts app, which has been downloaded more than 880,000 times, uses GPS technology to acquire a user’s location and displays

AAA’s projections are based on economic forecasting and research by IHS Global Insight. The Boston-based economic research and consulting firm teamed with AAA in 2009 to jointly analyze travel trends during major holidays. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2010 Labor Day holiday forecast can be found at AAA.com/news.

As North America’s largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides nearly 52 million members (89,650 in South Dakota) with travel, insurance, financial and automotive-related services. Since its founding in 1902, the not-for-profit, fully tax-paying AAA has been a leader and advocate for the safety and security of all travelers. AAA South Dakota can be visited on the Internet at AAA.com.

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