Less holiday travel expected
Thanksgiving holiday travel is expected to be down compared with last year in the region that includes North Dakota and Minnesota, the automobile club AAA said Wednesday.
Last year, travel during the holiday weekend dropped 25.2 percent nationwide in the wake of the housing and financial sector crises, but only 9 percent in AAA's West North Central Region, which includes the Dakotas, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska, Missouri and Kansas, AAA spokesman Gene LaDoucer said.
This year, travel is expected to be down 2.6 percent in the region, as opposed to a 1.4 percent increase nationwide.
"This region was one of the last to kind of feel the effects of the recession," LaDoucer said. "And now we're still feeling it somewhat, whereas the rest of the country, they got hit harder, quicker, and their travel numbers were down sharply last year and ours were relatively stable in comparison."
Still, he noted 21.5 percent of the region's population is expected to travel 50 miles or more from home over the weekend, well above the national average of
LaDoucer said the annual AAA forecast, based on research by IHS Global Insight, found 71 percent of this region's travelers will visit family and friends.
"That's something with the family values of this region, that falls right in line with that," he said.
Higher gas prices - North Dakota's average Wednesday was up about 57 cents a gallon from the same time last year - aren't expected to significantly affect travel, LaDoucer said. In fact, auto travel is expected to be up
2 percent over last year in the region, he said.
Air travel, on the other hand, is expected to be down 6.7 percent nationwide, as well as in the region, as airlines reduce capacity to keep costs down, LaDoucer said.
Lisa Brasgalla, a leisure agent with Travel Leaders of Fargo, said bookings for vacation packages to places such as Mexico and the Caribbean are up over last year at this time, while domestic travel bookings for the Thanksgiving holiday are about the same.
"There are fewer flights, but even out of Fargo, as long as people are flexible, we can find really good prices. The availability is still there," she said.
Travelers in this region are expected to travel an average of 643 miles and spend $368 per household over the Thanksgiving holiday, compared with 815 miles and $718 per household nationally, AAA said.