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Decrease in holiday traffic expected

By Staff
Jonathan Willis
Following a pattern throughout the year, officials expect to see a decline in holiday traffic this week.
AAA projects a slight decline in the number of Americans traveling during the Christmas holiday period. Nearly 63.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Christmas holiday travel period, a decrease of 1.4 million travelers from last year's total of 65.3 million. This is the first decline in Christmas holiday travelers since 2002.
AAA projected year-to-year decreases in the number of travelers for all five of the major travel holidays this year, which includes Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"Without question, the economic downturn of 2008 eroded the discretionary income many Americans would have spent on travel and, for some, altered their travel plans throughout the year," said AAA Alabama spokesperson Clay Ingram. "However, those traveling this holiday season can take advantage of declining hotel rates and fuel prices more than a dollar per gallon less than a year ago."
More than 52.4 million Americans intend to travel by automobile, a 1.2 percent decrease from the 53 million people who drove last year. Motorists across the country, on average, can expect to see gasoline prices about $1.30 per gallon less than last year and 50 cents less than a month ago.
The current average price for regular unleaded gasoline in Alabama is $1.58 per gallon, which is $1.40 per gallon less that this time last year.
Approximately 8.1 million expect to travel by airplane, an 8.5 percent decline from the 8.9 million travelers who flew last year. More than 3.33 million Americans plan to travel by train, bus or other mode of transportation. That is an increase of 0.7 percent from a year ago.
For Americans traveling during the week of Christmas, rates for AAA Three Diamond hotels are down an average of three percent compared to last year. On average, travelers renting a vehicle during the week of Christmas will pay two percent more than a year ago for the same period. Air passengers, however, can expect some relief in airfares this Christmas with prices nine percent less than last year.
Those planning to travel the week of New Year's will welcome a significant decline in hotel costs with rates for AAA Three Diamond hotels 16 percent less than a year ago. Car rentals rates are eight percent higher than last year for the same period. Americans traveling by air will pay an average of three percent more for airfares than a year ago.
The Southeast is expected to produce the largest number of automobile travelers this Christmas holiday period with 14.1 million, followed by the West with 12.9 million; Midwest, 10.2 million; the Great Lakes, 8.2 million; and Northeast, 7 million.