Fewer US travellers expected over Labor Day weekend

02 September 2011 21:13  [Source: ICIS news]

HOUSTON (ICIS)--The number of Americans travelling during the upcoming US Labor Day weekend is expected to slide from the 2010 holiday.

Automobile group AAA released its initial travel forecast on 24 August, before the wave of storms. The group predicted a 2.4% year on year slide in the number of Americans travelling at least 50 miles (80.5 km) for the holiday weekend stretching from 1-5 September. AAA expects 31.5m travellers.

“I'd be surprised if [travel] were to be strongly up [versus] past relative demand cycles due to high unemployment and the economic burdens it brings,” said analyst Stephen Jones with Purvin & Gertz. “Plus, there are very few cool places within driving distance for folks to escape this oppressive heat here in the south.”

About 27.3m people will drive during the holiday weekend, an increase of 0.5% from the 2010 holiday weekend, according to AAA’s forecast.

Air travel is expected to drop by 1.9% from 2010 as airfares are about 13% higher than in 2010, AAA said.

“[There are] fewer travellers by air because of higher jet fuel prices,” said analyst Phil Flynn with brokerage firm PFG Best. "[It] is a reflection that people that usually fly are driving to a location closer to home. It’s a displacement of air travellers back to buses or their vehicles."

The expected number of holiday travellers will not alter AAA’s forecast significantly in the wake of Irene or as a second storm sweeps through the US Gulf, said Jones.

“The [tropical storm] should not be a big event for drivers,” said Jones. “If anything, folks won’t drive over to New Orleans to see family and friends or to party on the weekend if the storm progressively worsens.”

Tropical Storm Lee was about 200 miles off the coast of Louisiana, moving very slowly to the north, the US National Hurricane Center (NHC) said.

Michael Right, the AAA vice president of public affairs for Louisiana, said the forecast would be ratcheted down for Louisiana travellers significantly if the amount of rain anticipated hits the state.

The storm is expected to produce rainfall of 10-15 inches (25-38cm) in southern parts of Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama through 4 September, according to the NHC.

Many individuals will adjust plans, especially if they planned time outdoors, Right said. Travellers will stay home or determine another destination for the holiday.

AAA's Tom Crosby of North and South Carolina said Hurricane Irene, which made landfall on 27 August in North Carolina, is not expected to affect holiday travel in the state, except for the lower part of the Outer Banks.


By: Sheena Martin
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