Thanksgiving holiday travel outlook: AAA predicts a big bounce on the roads and in the air

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Millions more Americans are expected to be on the road and in the sky over the Thanksgiving holiday, but the hospitality industry says it still hurts.

AAA predicts that travel will recover to less than 5% of pre-pandemic levels on Thanksgiving, with millions of Americans and Illinois traveling by car and plane. But the American Hotel and Lodging Association says the industry is still suffering from the disruptions of the pandemic era.

“Despite an expected small increase in vacation travel this year, hotels will continue to face the economic fallout from the pandemic,” said Chip Rogers, CEO of AHLA.

More than 53 million Americans will travel for the Thanksgiving holiday this year, a 13% increase from 2020, AAA predicts. And in Illinois, the total number of trips will be less than 7% of pre-pandemic levels.

In the skies, domestic air travel “has almost completely recovered from its dramatic drop during the pandemic” and is up 80% from last year, AAA said.

Domestic air travel will be up 80% from last Thanksgiving, according to AAA.
File Scott Olson / Getty Images

“It’s starting to look more like a normal holiday season compared to what we saw last year,” Debbie Haas, AAA’s vice president of travel, said in a press release.

But despite the rise in travel, only about 22% of Americans plan to stay in a hotel this Thanksgiving, and about the same amount this Christmas, an AHLA survey found, which is “definitely lower” than pre-pandemic years. Rogers said.

“The recovery is underway, it takes us a while to get there,” Rogers told the Chicago Sun-Times. “We are not alarmed by these numbers, but we would certainly like to see them improve quickly.”

Rogers said the majority of hotel revenue comes from business travel, which continues to lag despite the return of leisure travel.

The AHLA cited high gasoline prices as a possible reason for the continued downturn in the hospitality industry, but the AAA report found road trips are expected to increase further this year, with an 8% gain over compared to 2020.

In this March 31, 2021 photo, traffic flows along Interstate 90 as a Metra commuter train travels along an elevated track in Chicago.  Congress created a new requirement for automakers to find a high-tech way to prevent drunk people from driving cars.  It's one of the mandates along with a flurry of new spending to improve auto safety amid escalating road deaths in President Joe Biden's $ 1,000 billion infrastructure package. should sign soon.

Busy roads and airports mean travelers need to plan ahead and expect delays, according to AAA.
AP file

“Right now, gasoline prices are probably the biggest indicator of whether someone is traveling, and gasoline prices are at a seven-year high right now, so that doesn’t help. certainly not, ”Rogers said.

The recent announcement by the Biden administration that vaccinated foreign tourists can enter the country is good news for the hospitality industry. And for travelers, that means airports should be busier than ever, AAA said.

In general, the AAA advises travelers to be proactive and patient: book flights and accommodations in advance and plan for delays on roads and at airports.

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