For the first time in 20 years, AAA won’t issue a Memorial Day travel forecast, because the Covid-19 pandemic has undermined the accuracy of economic data used to create the forecast, says AAA Travel. The annual forecast, which estimates the number of people traveling over the holiday weekend, will return next year.
Anecdotal reports suggest fewer people will hit the road compared to previous years during a holiday that’s considered the unofficial start of the summer travel season.
“Last year, 43 million Americans traveled over the Memorial Day Weekend – the second-highest travel volume on record since AAA began tracking holiday travel volumes in 2000,” said Cyndi Zesk, vice president of travel for AAA Northeast. “With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”
Memorial Day 2009 currently holds the record for the lowest travel volume with nearly 31 million travelers, said AAA. Over that holiday weekend, which fell at 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.
AAA expects to issue travel projections in late summer and fall, assuming states ease travel restrictions and businesses reopen. There are some indications American wanderlust is inspiring travelers to plan trips.
Since mid-April, AAA.com/travel online bookings have been rising modestly, suggesting travel confidence is slowly improving. When it’s safe to travel, AAA predicts vacationers will prefer to visit mostly local and regional U.S destinations and embark on 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 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to recommend Americans stay home and avoid nonessential travel. 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, says AAA.