With gas prices down, AAA sees record travel
By Johanna Love, Jackson Hole, Wyoming
Date: June 30, 2012
During the week surrounding July 4, AAA predicts a near-record number of people will travel to visit family, friends and celebrate the nation’s independence.
AAA projects a 4.9 percent increase more than last year in those traveling 50 or more miles. Traffic should tie the past decade’s previous high mark, set in 2007.
If predictions hold, traffic would be up nearly 42 percent from 2009.
Jackson merchants may be holding their collective breaths as the county seeks to emerge from the recession while fending off alternating threats of high gas prices and the fear of fires.
“It is busier this year than it was last year,” said Rick Bickner, owner of Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream on Town Square. He expects the trend to keep up unless smoke and fires envelop the Tetons, he said.
“As long as somebody doesn’t torch something, we’ll be good,” he said.
There should be lots of folks out there ready for some Jackson Hole ice cream or other diversions away from home, the AAA said.
“The 4th of July is the first major holiday of the summer after school gets out, making it an appealing time to travel,” AAA spokeswoman Kaelyn Kelly said in a statement outlining AAA predictions.
Many people will take advantage of the midweek placement of the holiday to extend their trips to either the preceding or the following weekend, Kelly said. Some may bookend a trip with both weekends.
Economic growth is encouraging folks to travel, AAA says. In the third quarter of 2012, personal income is forecast to increase 4 percent, while real disposable income is set to rise 1.4 percent.
Overall, 42.3 million Americans will venture farther than 50 miles from home this week, AAA predicted.
Lower gasoline prices also are motivating travel, the association said. This year’s peak price at the pump, $3.94, came April 6.
Gas prices since have fallen 57 cents a gallon to a nationwide average of $3.37. That’s 18 cents less than this time in 2011.
However, these signs of economic progress may not lead to increased consumer spending.
“Intending travelers say they’re looking for ways to economize their 4th of July travel,” Kelly said. “AAA projects visiting family and friends and sightseeing will likely increase, while shopping and entertainment activities that cost more will decrease.”
While traveling may be up this holiday, people are choosing car keys over boarding passes. Eighty-four percent of all Independence Day holiday travelers will drive, a 4 percent increase over the people who traveled by car in 2011.
Air travel volume also will increase, by 9 percent, but fliers make up about 10 percent of travelers.