Travel Scene: 42.3 million have Fourth of July travel plans
Ready to travel this coming week?
If so, you will be joining an estimated 42.3 million Americans with the same idea during the July 4 holiday period. That's the projection from AAA Travel Services which estimates that the number of Americans who will be traveling at this time will increase 4.9 percent year over year and will tie the past decade's previous high mark set in 2007. The projection represents a nearly 42-percent increase from 2009.
The high number is being driven by three elements, notes Bill Sutherland, vice president of AAA Travel Services in a news release.
"Americans continue to have an appetite for travel; a midweek holiday is positive, and lower gas prices" than forecast earlier in the year are the reasons, he said.
AAA Travel defines the Independence Day holiday travel period from Tuesday, July 3, to Sunday, July 8. But because July 4 falls on a Wednesday, the calendar will play a role in driving holiday travel volume as the midweek holiday expands the traditional five-day travel period to six days and provides the option of including a weekend and two days on either side of the holiday.
When asked about the day of departure, 54 percent of those polled intend to begin their travel before July 4 — with some 40 percent leaving this weekend. Gasoline prices also are playing a large part in Americans' holiday travel plans, notes AAA Travel Services.
In early April, motorists experienced a year-to-date peak average price of $3.94 per gallon for regular gasoline. Earlier this month, during the AAA polling period, the price had fallen nationally to $3.50 per gallon, a figure that was 16 cents a gallon below the comparable figure a year ago.
As usual, the vast majority of Americans will be traveling by automobile during the holiday period, an estimated 35.5 million people or 84 percent of all Independence Day holiday travelers. The figure is a 4 percent increase over the 34.1 million people who traveled by auto last year.
Other forms of transportation are up as well. For instance, the number of air travelers is expected to increase by more than 9 percent from last year. Slightly more than 3.2 million travelers will fly, and this year's increase is the third consecutive year of rising Fourth of July holiday air-travel volume.
The remaining number of holiday travelers will be using other modes of transportation, including rail, bus and cruise ships. This accounts for 3.6 million travelers, a 10-percent increase over last year and the second highest volume in the past 10 years.
Summer tourism in Minnesota is poised for a rebound, according to officials at Explore Minnesota Tourism.
"As consumers gain more confidence in the economy, they are more likely to take leisure trips. And the continuing trend of vacationing close to home really benefits Minnesota," according to tourism director John Edman.
According to a survey undertaken by the agency, some 39 percent of state lodging and camping businesses expect occupancy to be higher this summer than lasts, and 44 percent expect a revenue increase, according to the Star Tribune.
Some 370 hospitality businesses were surveyed by the state tourism agency and the results were more positive than a similar survey two years ago. That's when businesses first noticed an uptick from the recession lows of 2009. According to several resort spokesmen in northern Minnesota, business this summer will be close to pre-recession levels, according to the Star Tribune account.
Fishing, which drives many to northern Minnesota in particular, is the best in the past three years, reports the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Reasons cited include size restrictions imposed by the DNR, cormorant control and other regulations have helped fish populations thrive.