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AAA Reports Holiday Travel Increase

December 12, 2006

AAA Reports Holiday Travel Increase
Dec. 12, 2006 – AAA is estimating that more Americans will travel this Christmas-New Year’s holiday than ever. According to a recent survey, 64.9 million Americans are expected to travel 50 miles or more from home this holiday, a 2.2 percent increase from last year’s 63.5 million travelers.

"Because hotel rates, air fares and gas prices have risen only slightly from this time last year, Americans will not hold back when making travel arrangements this holiday season," said AAA. "This Christmas-New Year’s holiday we will see a healthy growth in travelers, following relatively flat travel seasons earlier in the year."

Approximately 52.6 million travelers (81 percent of all holiday travelers) expect to go by motor vehicle, a 2.1 percent increase from the 51.5 million who drove a year ago. Holiday auto travelers will find gas prices nationwide currently averaging $2.29 for a gallon of self-serve regular gasoline – up seven cents during the last month, and 12 cents higher than one year ago. Another 9 million (nearly 14 percent of holiday travelers) plan to travel by airplane, up 2.7 percent from the 8.7 million that flew over the holidays last year. A projected 3.3 million travelers (5 percent) will go by train, bus, or other mode of transportation, up slightly from 3.21 million a year ago.

Christmas hotel rates are up four percent for AAA-rated Three Diamond hotels, as strong demand allows hoteliers to raise rates. Airfares stayed at an even keel from last Christmas, while rental car rates have dropped a welcome average of three percent from their prices last Christmas.

According to AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, travelers can expect to see a 2 percent decrease in airfares from this time last year, but will make up for those savings with higher rental car rates, which is up about five percent. As in 2005, the greatest number of Christmas-New Year auto travelers will originate in the Southeast with 13.8 million, followed by the West, 13.2 million; Midwest, 10.2 million; the Great Lakes, 8.3 million; and the Northeast, 7.2 million. The Southeast is expected to produce the largest number of air travelers with 2.7 million, followed closely by the West with 2.5 million; then the Northeast with 1.8 million; Midwest with one million; and Great Lakes with 924,000.

Most travelers will avoid the high hotel rates expected over Christmas and New Year’s, with 66 percent of holiday travelers expect to stay at a friend or relative’s home. Hotels and motels are a distant second at 19.7 percent, followed by cabin/condo, 2.4 percent; camper/trailer/RV/tent, 1.9 percent; other, 1.8 percent; no overnight stay, 5.1 percent; and didn’t know, 1.3 percent.

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