Photo Credit: AAA
So just how different is Memorial Day weekend this year? So different, that for the first time in 20 years, the American Automobile Association isn’t issuing its holiday weekend travel forecast. Not all that surprising when you consider the CDC is still recommending people avoid non-essential travel and most Americans are doing just that.
AAA researchers say they aren’t issuing the annual forecast because the accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been “undermined by COVID-19.” AAA adds that anecdotal reports suggest fewer people will hit the road compared to years past for what is considered the unofficial start of the summer travel season.
This is in stark contrast to the travel situation just one year ago.
“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled for Memorial Day Weekend – the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,” said Paula Twidale, senior vice president, AAA Travel. “With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”
We’ll have to wait and see whether this year ends up displacing Memorial Day 2009 as the year with the lowest travel volume at nearly 31 million travelers, according to AAA. That holiday weekend, which came toward the end of the Great Recession, 26.4 million Americans traveled by car, 2.1 million by plane and nearly 2 million by other forms of transportation (train, cruise, etc.).
AAA says it expects to make travel projections for the late summer and fall, assuming states ease travel restrictions and businesses reopen. Already, there are indications that Americans are itching to get back out there and travel. AAA says its online travel bookings are on the rise, though modestly, since mid-April, which could mean travelers’ confidence is slowly improving.
When it is safe to travel, AAA predicts two trends: one that many vacationers will stay in the U.S. rather than travel abroad, and two that many will opt for road trips.
Many Americans were already planning more domestic travel pre-COVID-19 according to a February AAA Travel survey. Researchers say 90% of the 173 million Americans who had summer vacations on the books planned to take a U.S.-based vacation. AAA travel experts say that’s common during a presidential election year, when many travelers hold off on international travel because to see how the election will affect the economy or international relations.
“The saying goes that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. Americans are taking that first step toward their next journey from the comfort of their home by researching vacation opportunities and talking with travel agents,” said Twidale. “We are seeing that Americans are showing a preference and inspiration to explore all that our country has to offer as soon as it is safe to travel.”
With the CDC currently advising people to continue to avoid non-essential travel, AAA says Americans should heed all official warnings and refer to the latest updates from the CDC and U.S. Department of State to help decrease the spread of COVID-19.