ORLANDO, Fla. – 91.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the 2011-12 Year-End holiday travel season, a 1.4 percent increase over the 90.7 million people who traveled one year ago. This year’s expected Year-End holiday travel volume is the second highest in the past decade and represents 30 percent of the total U.S. population. The 11-day Year-End holiday period is the longest holiday travel season of the year, affording many more Americans time to visit family or take vacations. AAA defines the Year-End holiday travel season as Friday, December 23, 2011 to Monday, January 2, 2012.
“It’s a positive sign for the travel industry that so many Americans are planning to travel this holiday season, collectively contributing to the second-highest year-end holiday travel volume in the past ten years,” said Bill Sutherland, vice president, AAA Travel Services. “As our lives get busier, it is so important to create opportunities for the rest and rejuvenation that result from vacation travel and connecting with family and friends, especially during the holidays.”
Economic improvements are continuing at a very slow pace, and consumer surveys show active concern and pessimism over that pace. The measure of economic activity, real gross domestic product, is expected to increase for the fourth quarter of 2011 by 1.5 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2010. While 1.5 percent growth is still slow, it is a slight increase over the expected 1.3 percent fourth quarter growth predicted only one month ago, and the primary factor expected to drive this year’s modest increase in expected Year-End holiday travel.
While pent-up demand was projected to inspire significant Thanksgiving holiday travel growth this year, holiday travel at the end of the year is less cyclical so pent-up demand has less effect. Travel during the Year-End holiday period did not see the dramatic drop in travel following the 2008 recession that other holiday periods experienced. The 2008-09 Year-End holiday travel volume of 85.7 million was only 8.5 percent less than the 93.7 million Year-End holiday travel during the 2006-07 peak. Year-End holiday travel has grown each year since 2008-09; 89.5 million in 2009-10; 90.7 million in 2010-11; 91.9 million this year.
Fifty-nine percent of intending travelers feel the economy has either no impact on their travel plans or they feel like things have improved for them. The remaining 41 percent state an intention to scale back travel plans due to economic concerns. Last year, 67 percent of intending travelers stated that their travel plans were not impacted by the economic conditions at that time. Given current economic conditions, a majority of travelers reporting no economic impact on their travel plans is a positive sign for the travel industry and another reminder of just how important traveling is to Americans.