Holiday Travel Gets Boost from Economy

With the economy continuing to strengthen more people plan to travel for Thanksgiving. An estimated 42-million people will travel at least 50 miles for the holiday. That’s nearly 12 percent more than last year. Laurie Johnson reports.


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The Thanksgiving travel period runs from Wednesday through Sunday. During the course of that time, more than three million Texans will hit the roads to visit family and friends. Dan Ronan with AAA Texas says the past couple of years have been hard on the travel industry, but things are starting to improve.

“It has been a tough two years with regards to travel, especially around the major holidays. 2008 and 2009 were very difficult. We’re looking this year at an 11.4 percent increase nationally, and almost 12 percent in the state of Texas. Still, that’s not what it was like in 2003, 2004 and 2005, but we’re starting to move in the right direction.”

That’s compared to almost no growth in travel last year and a sharp decline the year before that.

“If you look at the numbers, in 2008 travel declined by 25 percent. That’s a huge contraction in terms of travel — people just saying we’re not going anywhere. So we’re looking at this year an increase. Do we have a ways to go? Of course we do. We had some rough times here in the economy in the last couple of years, but things seem to be at least from what we’re hearing, things seem to be turning around.”

Nearly 95 percent of the people who will travel this week plan to drive rather than fly. Gasoline is significantly more expensive than it was in 2009. Depending on which city you’re driving to, prices may be as much as 25 cents per gallon higher than this time last year. But Ronan says, although that sounds like a lot, it doesn’t add up as quickly as you might imagine.

“The thing to remember here is that my car and most cars my size take 14 gallons of gasoline to fill them up from completely empty. To fill up a car from empty at 14 gallons probably costs right now about $37 or $38 for a tank. If you bought that same tank a year ago, it was $35, so we’re looking at about a difference of about $3 a tankful. Yes, in some cases money is tight. But we’re not looking at the type of a doubling like we saw two years ago.”

Ronan says AAA expects to see slow steady growth in travel over the course of the holidays, with travel by car far overtaking any other mode of transportation. So keep that in mind when you hit the road this week — everyone else will be out there too.

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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

Executive Producer for News

Laurie Johnson leads daily news coverage for HPM. She helps reporters craft and sharpen their stories on tight deadlines, with the aim of getting the most relevant and current information into local newscasts. Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. She is...

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