The AAA travel forecast is a fixture of Memorial Day and other holidays. The coronavirus has changed even that.
For the first time in 20 years there will not be a holiday travel forecast, with AAA saying the accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19. The forecast – which estimates the number of people traveling over the holiday weekend – will return next year.
With the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continuing to recommend that Americans stay home and avoid nonessential travel, it is inevitable that fewer people than a year ago will be on the road for the holiday weekend officially kicking off the summer travel season.
“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.”
But AAA is offering information that indicates Americans are slowly returning to normal life despite the coronavirus threat.
AAA.com/Travel reports online bookings have been rising, though modestly, since mid-April, suggesting travelers’ confidence is improving. When it is safe to travel, AAA predicts vacationers will have a preference for U.S destinations, mostly local and regional locations, and the great American road trip.
The expected rebound in domestic vacations aligns with trends AAA anticipated for summer 2020 pre-COVID-19. In a March AAA Travel survey, 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 they want to see how the election will affect the economy or international relations. This year, the phenomenon is amplified by concerns about the pandemic.
“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,” Twidale said. “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.”
AAA expects vacationers will gravitate to road trips and family bookings including air, car, hotel and activities to destinations in the U.S., Canada and Mexico.
In South Carolina and states where tourism plays such a vital role in the economy, signs that people will return to traveling and focus on domestic venues are welcome.
And unlike Memorial Day 2009, when travel near the end of the Great Recession was at its lowest, the hope is the economy will rebound quickly after being shut down intentionally. It can’t happen soon enough.
— The Times and Democrat, Orangeburg