WASHINGTON (May 24, 2016)—Travelers hitting the roads, rails and skies this Memorial Day weekend are expected to spend a total of $12 billion during their trips, an increase of 1.2 percent from last year, according to research from the U.S. Travel Association.
Based on AAA's forecast that 38 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more this holiday weekend, U.S. Travel economists predict that travelers will spend an average of $320 each during their trips.
While good for the U.S. economy, this surge of travelers will likely add further stress to already-crowded airport security lines and traffic-choked highways.
"What we're seeing is that the demand for travel is greater than ever—but that leads to the question of whether our transportation infrastructure is equipped to support that job-creating activity," said U.S. Travel President and CEO Roger Dow. "Unfortunately, the overwhelming body of evidence tells us the answer is no."
While most Memorial Day weekend travelers will embark on road trips, spending an average of $220 each on lodging, restaurants and entertainment, a significant impact will be felt from spending by air travelers—a hefty $990 each, on average.
Despite strong Memorial Day predictions, an abiding question is whether much-publicized troubles with lengthy TSA airport wait times will affect people's desire to fly in the foreseeable future. U.S. Travel expects to release research that addresses this question—and determines any resulting economic damage—later this week.
"Leisure travel confidence is up, which could be great news for our economy—but when travelers are faced with two and three hour wait times at airports, at what point might they just stay home?" Dow said.
"As I have said before, given the importance of travel to our economy and our way of life, addressing the dire situation at airport security checkpoints needs to be a national priority."
One way travelers can help alleviate the problem, Dow said, is to enroll in TSA PreCheck, the agency's flagship trusted traveler program. The ability to pre-screen travelers and eliminate them as threats enables TSA to more efficiently deploy resources at the airport—a boon both to security and to wait times throughout the system, Dow and others point out.