Economy Watch: Thanksgiving Travel Busiest Since Before 2008

Travel for the holidays has recovered to pre-recession levels, providing some good news for the hospitality and other travel-dependent real estate sectors.
Photo via Flickr user lunchtimemama

Photo via Flickr user lunchtimemama

Travel for the holidays has recovered to pre-recession levels, which is a bit of good news for the hospitality industry—a sector that is already doing quite well—as well as restaurants and other travel-dependent businesses. That’s the conclusion from new data compiled by AAA.

Nationwide, 48.7 million Americans will travel in excess of 50 miles or more from home during the Thanksgiving holiday travel period, according to the organization (Nov. 23 to 27). That’s an increase of 1 million travelers compared with last year, and represents a 1.9 percent increase over 2015. The total would also be the most Thanksgiving travelers since 2007.

The vast majority of the travelers will drive. About 43.5 million people, or 89 percent of all travelers, will use a car for their trips over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, also up 1.9 percent compared with last year. As of Nov. 23, the national average price for gasoline was $2.13 cents per gallon, only 8 cents more than the average price on Thanksgiving last year ($2.05). Thus most U.S. drivers will pay the second-cheapest Thanksgiving gas prices since 2008, when the national average was $1.85.

The are a number of factors driving holiday travel this Thanksgiving, noted AAA. These include improvements in the economy during the second half of the year, such as rising wages, increased consumer spending and overall strength in consumer confidence. Despite recent incremental increases in the national average price of gasoline, the organization estimates U.S. drivers have saved more than $28 billion at the pumps so far this year, compared to the same period last year.