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AMERICANS HIT THE ROAD WEAK DOLLAR, HIGH CONSUMER CONFIDENCE IS GOOD NEWS FOR DOMESTIC TRAVEL

By Published on .

Load up the kids, gas up the car and water the plants-Americans are headed out in record numbers this summer.

Americans are expected to take 230 million person-trips within the U.S., of at least 100 miles from home, between June and August.

That's up 4.5% over 1993, according to estimates provided by the Travel Industry Association of America.

Each leisure or business trip will cost about $990, pumping a projected $440 billion into the domestic economy before yearend, said Shawn Flaherty, manager of media relations with the travel association. That's more than 10% higher than for '93.

The reason? A weak dollar is keeping Americans in the States. Also, overall consumer confidence in the economy is high, evidenced by heightened purchases of durable goods, Ms. Flaherty said.

"Once those two things are in place, they're ready to purchase travel," she said. "They're satisfying that pent-up demand for travel."

Some markets that can expect the most travel: the West and Southeast, according to Plog Research, a Reseda, Calif., travel consultancy.

Though travel to certain national parks is down, many are showing strong visitation, the National Park Service said.

Most of the domestic travel-upwards of 80%-will be done by car, said the American Automobile Association.

AAA recently launched a campaign supporting its travel services, via McFarland & Drier, Miami, themed "Travel with someone you trust."

AAA's figure on auto travel is up nearly 5% to 184 million person-trips, and the organization anticipates a 10% increase in domestic travel routings and a 9% boost in travel agency activity over last summer. Again, a good economy and lower gas prices are driving domestic tourism.

"From AAA's perspective, this has been an extremely active summer," said Jerry Cheske, manager of public relations for the Heathrow, Fla.-based company.

The next two pages look at how top destinations from last summer are faring and examine marketing plans.

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