MEMORIAL DAY KICKS OFF SUMMER TRAVEL

Are you ready for the 34.4 million Americans hitting the road this Memorial Day weekend? AAA forecasts a surge in Americans hitting the road this weekend as travel begins to rebound.

“We’re still going to be about 10% to 15% lower than we were pre-pandemic,” cautioned Andrew Gross, media relations manager for AAA’s Foundation for Traffic Safety and Public Affairs, on this week’s Convenience Matters podcast, “A Memorial Day Forecast of Miles and Smiles.”

Gross said, “You can bet that Memorial Day is a great way of sort of gauging the temperature of what summer’s going to look like. If we have a robust Memorial Day travel period, summer is going to be robust as well.”

As the country opens up more fully with relaxed guidelines, hotels have seen increased bookings. “People are planning ahead, and really want to get out and travel. They really want to get out and spend, and they’re confident,” he said.

Added to the mix is lingering effects from the Colonial Pipeline shutdown, which pushed up gas prices. “The week before the pipeline went offline, we were like $2.93, $2.94 [per gallon on average], and then Colonial Pipeline happened,” Gross said. “How much of that was directly attributed to Colonial Pipeline? You could probably say a fair amount. So now we’re like $3 to $3.05 [per gallon on average]. It takes a while for [the prices] to slowly moderate and drop back down.”

However, he pointed out that “in the past, we have realized that higher gas prices do not deter travel. People will figure out another way to save money. Then maybe they won’t eat out as much, or maybe they won’t have as quite as extravagant meal or they may do more free activities, but they will travel and they will stop.” Gross also reminded retailers that “people began to fall back in love with the Great American Road Trip,” which convenience retailers could capitalize on this summer.