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AAA forecasts 91.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the upcoming Christmas / New Year’s holiday period, a 1.4 percent increase over year-ago figures.
This year’s travel volume is the highest since 2006. AAA defines the travel season as running from Friday, Dec. 23 to Monday, Jan. 2, 2012.
Today, the auto club released its annual year-end travel forecast, which revealed growth in both Oklahoma and nationwide, but only for auto travel, not air. Nationally, 83.6 million will be getting there by motor vehicle, a 2.1 percent boost over one year ago, and 5.4 million will fly, a dip of 9.7 percent.
In Oklahoma, overall travel is predicted to increase 2.8 percent over last year, with 787,500 Oklahomans traveling by motor vehicle over the holidays, a 3.2 percent jump compared to 2010 figures, and 44,900 flying, a 6.5 percent decline from last year.
“It’s a positive sign for the travel industry that so many Oklahomans are planning to travel this holiday season, despite the drop in expected air travel,” said Chuck Mai, spokesman for AAA Oklahoma. “Gasoline prices have come down off their late summer/early fall highs and some economic indicators, such as the real gross domestic product, are showing signs of life.”
While the current Oklahoma statewide average of $3.069 is 26 cents more than last year at this time, Oklahoma’s fuel average is currently 77 cents less than this year’s peak price of $3.842 recorded on May 12. Oklahoma enjoys the third lowest gas price average of all the fifty states today. Only Missouri ($3.009) and New Mexico ($3.023) have a lower statewide average for self-serve regular.
Fifty-nine percent of intending travelers state that the economy has either no impact on their travel plans, or that things have improved for them since last year. The remaining 41 percent state an intention to scale back due to economic concerns.
According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, airfares are projected to be 21 percent higher over peak travel periods this year than last year. Hotel rates at AAA Three Diamond-rated lodgings are expected to increase a modest one percent from last year. Daily car rental rates are predicted to decline 21 percent this year to $40, the lowest rate in five years.
American travelers will venture an average of 726 miles from home this year, down from 1,052 miles last year, thanks in large part to the decline in air travel. Median spending is projected to be $718, which is three percent more than last year.
AAA’s projections are based on research by IHS Global Insight, a Boston-based economic research and consulting firm. AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades.
A not-for-profit organization, AAA Oklahoma serves its 357,000 members across Oklahoma with emergency help on the road, auto travel assistance and a wide range of personal insurance, travel, financial and automotive services through its 43 retail branches, regional operations center and the Internet at AAA.com.