AAA South Dakota predicts 130,000 South Dakotans will travel 50 miles or more from home over the long Independence Day holiday this year, 0.7 percent more than last year.
Eighty-nine percent of these travelers will get there by motor vehicle, up 1 percent, and another 9 percent (6,600), will fly, down .5 percent. The remainder will travel by other modes or combination of modes of transportation.
Nationally, AAA projects 41 million Americans will journey over the holiday weekend, a 1.9 percent increase from the 40.3 million who traveled last year and a nearly 14 percent increase compared to the Memorial Day holiday weekend. The Independence Day holiday travel period is defined as Wednesday, July 2 to Sunday, July 6.
Research shows that a willingness to take on credit card debt, not an increase in income, is responsible for the increase in consumer spending. Travel volume for Independence Day has grown four out of the past five years and is expected to be more than six percent higher than the average of the past 10 years. Holiday air travel is expected to decrease 0.6 percent to 3.1 million travelers from 3.12 million last year.
Travelers will encounter airfares five percent lower than last year and car rental costs that are fairly consistent with last year at $58. Hotel rates at AAA Two Diamond-rated hotels are 15 percent higher than last year and Three Diamond-rated hotels are nine percent more. “The Fourth of July holiday is typically the busiest summer travel holiday, with five million more Americans traveling compared to Memorial Day weekend,” said Marilyn Buskohl, spokeswoman for AAA South Dakota. “In line with tradition, most travelers are celebrating their newfound summer freedom with an all-American road trip.”
The increase in consumer spending is primarily due to increasing credit, rather than rising incomes. Consumers have been hesitant to add to their credit card balances the past several years, but continued improvements in the employment picture and rising home values means they are starting to feel more comfortable taking on debt. In addition to consumer spending, a boost in consumer confidence and the employment outlook are driving more Americans to take a road trip.
“Steady improvement in the economy has spurred increased consumer confidence and spending,” said Buskohl. “Optimistic Americans are more willing to take on debt this year, dusting off their credit cards to pay for a much-needed Independence Day getaway.”