AAA: COVID-19 Pandemic Will Suppress Memorial Day Travel

For the first time in 20 years AAA will not issued a Memorial Day travel forecast.

WBBM Newsradio Staff
May 19, 2020 - 12:58 pm

CHICAGO (WBBM NEWSRADIO) -- The start of the summer travel season would normally be this coming weekend, but that was before COVID-19 hit.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had an impact on many things, and that includes summer travel plans.

For the first time in 20 years AAA will not issued a Memorial Day travel forecast, "as the accuracy of the economic data used to create the forecast has been undermined by COVID-19."

AAA said the annual forecast – which estimates the number of people traveling over the holiday weekend – will return next year.

According to the company, 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.

“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 at AAA Travel. “With social distancing guidelines still in practice, this holiday weekend’s travel volume is likely to set a record low.”

According to Senior Petroleum Analyst Patrick DeHaan 31 percent Americans are still planning to hit the road this summer - that is still down 44 percent from last year.

"A lot of motorists haven't completely ruled out if they are going to hit the road this summer; 18 percent of respondents said there will be no road trips and half of them, about 51 percent still have not made the decision to hit the road or not," he said.

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And that is a shame since gas prices are so low.

"Prices today are still 97 cents lower than a year ago when prices averaged $2.86," DeHaan said.

Memorial Day 2009 currently holds the record for 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 said in a statement.

AAA 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’ wanderlust is inspiring them to plan future vacations.

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 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.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention continues to recommend that Americans stay home and avoid nonessential travel.