SOURCE: AAA Texas

November 18, 2008 15:05 ET

AAA Projects Slight Decline in Thanksgiving Travel Nationwide and in Texas for the First Time Since 2002

Despite Facing Tough Economic Times, 41 Million Americans Still Plan to Travel

IRVING, TX--(Marketwire - November 18, 2008) - AAA Texas forecasts a small decline in the number of Americans and Texans traveling during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Approximately 41 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home this Thanksgiving holiday weekend, a decrease of 600,000 travelers (1.4 percent) from last year's total of 41.6 million, while the number of Texans traveling is expecting to decline by 1.2 percent to 3.18 million. This is the first decline in Thanksgiving holiday travel since 2002 and is the fourth consecutive travel holiday this year with a year-to-year decline in the number of travelers.

"The overall state of the economy continues to present real challenges for some Americans looking to travel this Thanksgiving," said AAA President and CEO Robert L. Darbelnet. "However, the desire to spend time with family, combined with significantly lower gasoline prices than earlier this year, will provide a strong impetus for many Americans to travel this holiday season."

More than 33.2 million Americans (81 percent of all holiday travelers) expect to travel by automobile, a 1.2 percent decrease from the 33.6 million people who drove a year ago.

The national average for self-serve regular gasoline is $2.07 per gallon. Today's price is 88 cents less than a month ago and $1.03 less than a year ago.

Nearly 4.54 million (11 percent of holiday travelers) plan to travel by airplane, a 7.2 percent decrease from the 4.89 million travelers who flew last year.

Approximately 3.26 million Americans (eight percent of holiday travelers) intend to travel by train, bus or other mode of transportation. That is an increase of 5.8 percent (or 180,000 travelers) when compared to the 3.08 million who traveled by a mode other than automobile or airplane last year.

Texas continues to be one of the leaders when it comes to travel, only second behind California when it comes to Thanksgiving travel. 7.8% of all U.S. travel will take place in Texas during the Thanksgiving weekend. AAA estimates 3.18 million Texans will take a trip during this period. Of that, 2.49 million will be by automobile (a 0.6 percent decline from 2007), 477,000 will be by airplane (a 6 percent drop from last year) and the rest will be by other means of transportation.

"Texas has some of the lowest gasoline prices in the nation, now averaging less than $1.92 a gallon. That's 14 cents below the national average. Motorists are also paying $1.04 less than they did on this date a year ago. Clearly the slow economy will keep some people at home, but for those that do decide to travel they'll have more money because of substantially lower fuel costs," said AAA Texas/New Mexico Corporate Communications Manager, Dan Ronan.

According to AAA's Leisure Travel Index (LTI), which is based on available rates this holiday, Thanksgiving holiday travelers can expect to pay more for airfares and car rentals this year. Air passengers can expect airfares eight percent higher than last year. AAA advises travelers that many changes have occurred since the last holiday travel season. Most airlines continue to charge fees for checked baggage and other previously complimentary services like beverages and snacks. Travelers should check with the airline or their travel counselor about any additional fees for their trip.

On average, car rental prices are four percent higher than a year ago for the same period. Car rental rates vary from location to location, so some cities in AAA's LTI show significant increases when compared to last year, while others show significant decreases. AAA's index for car rentals is based on the average lowest intermediate size car daily rate in 20 U.S. airport locations. The rates do not include sales tax, insurance and other miscellaneous charges.

Thanksgiving travelers across the country, however, will find bargains when looking to book their hotel stay this year. Rates for AAA Three Diamond hotels are down an average of 10 percent compared to last year.

The greatest number of automobile travelers this Thanksgiving holiday will originate in the Southeast with 8.8 million, followed by the West with 6.9 million; Midwest, 6.5 million; Great Lakes, 6.1 million; and Northeast, 4.8 million.

The Southeast is expected to produce the largest number of air travelers with 1.176 million, followed by the West with 1.172 million; Northeast, 882,000; Midwest, 731,000; and Great Lakes, 575,000.

The AAA Fuel Gauge Report Web site (www.aaafuelgaugereport.com) lists average daily prices for the nation, all 50 states and more than 250 localities for all grades of gasoline.

Research for Thanksgiving weekend holiday travel projections are derived from the Travel Industry Association's (TIA) Holiday Travel Forecast Model. The model was developed based on consumer travel intentions and TIA's quarterly travel forecast data. The travel intentions data are collected through an online survey of over 2,000 adults nationwide, supplemented by an additional 6,500 Americans surveyed from the top 10 states of origin in the United States. Historical travel volume and other economic data such as GDP, disposable income, employment and travel costs (including fuel prices) are also incorporated into the model. Analysis of the data and the forecasts are produced by the Travel Industry Association, which conducts special research for AAA.

As North America's largest motoring and leisure travel organization, AAA provides more than 51 million members 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 clubs can be visited on the Internet at www.AAA.com.

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