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Memorial Day auto travel to rise 3.4%
AAA: Recovering economy will play a bigger role in vacationer's travel plans than record gas prices.
May 18, 2004: 2:39 PM EDT

NEW YORK (CNN/Money) - Memorial Day travelers aren't letting a little gas price surge get in their way.

An AAA national survey of 1,300 adults done in conjunction with the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) released Tuesday showed an increase in auto and air travel expected this year.

The survey results showed that some 30.9 million travelers, up 3.4 percent from last year, will drive 50 miles or more by car this Memorial Day weekend.

Another 4.1 million plan to travel by plane, up 5.3 percent from last year. Memorial Day weekend is the traditional start of the peak summer driving season in the United States.

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Strong demand and high crude oil prices have pushed average retail gasoline prices up 52 cents from last year to a record $2.02 per gallon, the government said this week. Prices are up to as much as $3 a gallon in some locations.

But indications of a recovering economy, including strong employment reports in March and April, have spurred travel, the report said. Respondents to the poll also reported being less concerned than a year ago about security issues, which has also boosted travel plans.

Looking beyond the holiday weekend, the TIA and AAA expect Americans to break out their suitcases in record numbers the entire summer.

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Pent-up demand may have contributed to increased travel plans this year. AAA vice president Sandra Hughes said in a press release, "In the spring of 2003, many travelers delayed vacation plans due to the Iraq War. This year, travelers have largely ignored some higher costs in their desire to return to their traveling ways."

Many Americans seem willing to absorb the higher costs of foreign travel as well. European travel packages have sold briskly, according to Hughes, despite 10- to 20-percent price increases caused by the weak dollar.

The AAA has shortened its name from American Automobile Association.  Top of page

-- Reuters contributed to this story

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