Arrivalist predicts 42.5 million road trips over Labor Day weekend

AAA said gas prices up a nickel as Hurricane Laura drives up demand

Travel data company Arrivalist is forecasting 42.5 million Americans will take road trips this Labor Day weekend, down 5.3 percent compared to last year.

AS THE HOTEL industry in the U.S. looks forward with some trepidation to Labor Day weekend, travel data company Arrivalist is forecasting 42.5 million Americans will hit the road that weekend. That’s down 5.3 percent compared to last year.

The data for the upcoming holiday weekend is part of Arrivalist’s new Daily Travel Index that now includes year-over-year insights. Cree Lawson, Arrivalist founder and CEO said the outlook is good.

“Americans continue to seek respite on the road,” says Cree Lawson. “These latest projections are a promising sign for the travel industry.”

The index measures trips by car over 50 miles and where the traveler spends at least two hours at their destination using apanel of GPS signals. It does not include cargo deliveries or other reoccurring activities. The year-over-year data will go back to January 2019.

For the July 4 weekend, Arrivalist reported travel exceeded expectations by dropping 9 percent rather than the 11 percent predicted for the weekend. This despite a rise in COVID-19 cases in that month.

One possible impact on Arrivalist’s prediction may come from the 5 cent spike in gas prices reported by AAA on Monday. The national average price rose to $2.23 as a result of Hurricane Laura and an increase in demand for one of the highest measurements of the year.

“It’s typical to see increased demand and more expensive gas prices ahead of a storm, especially one that threatens rigs and refineries in the Gulf of Mexico region,” said Jeanette Casselano. “The latest industry reports indicate that facilities in Texas have already begun the restarting process, which means there is no major threat to gasoline stocks and gas prices should push cheaper.”

Labor Day is the last big travel holiday of the summer, and some hospitality experts are concerned about what will happen to occupancy levels when leisure travel ebbs and business travel continues to be stifled by the pandemic. Occupancy already began receding some in the week ending Aug. 22, dropping to 48.8 percent after finally rising above 50 percent the week before, according to STR.

“Unfortunately, this week’s headline could easily be ‘What the summer giveth, the summer taketh away,” said Jan Freitag, STR’s senior vice president of lodging insights, in a video deep dive of the data for the week.