Cheapest gas in U.S. helps boost holiday travel | News
An estimated 437,000 South Carolina motorists - a 3.3% increase over last year - are expected to begin traveling Thursday as the summer travel season begins with the Memorial Day holiday weekend.
South Carolina has the cheapest gasoline in the nation at $3.34 cents a gallon, with the lowest average price in Greenville at $3.29 and the highest in tourist-centric Charleston at $3.40 a gallon.
The state’s average gas prices has dropped 40 cents a gallon since peaking at $3.74 on April 9th, giving South Carolina the nation’s cheapest average price for a gallon of regular unleaded. North Carolina has the 10th lowest gas price in the nation at $3.55 a gallon.
Today’s price is 28 cents lower than on May 22, 2011.
“Sharply declining gasoline prices, a slight improvement in the economy and a desire to spend the holiday with family and friends means more vehicles on the road this year,” said David E. Parsons, CEO and president of AAA Carolinas.
A total of 500,200 South Carolinians are expected to travel more than 50 miles from home, with a drop in those flying to 33,100 (down 5.5%) from 35,000 last year. Other travel (bus, rail, maritime) is expected to remain the same at 30,000 travelers.
Trips are expected to be shorter, down from 730 round trip miles last year to 570 this year. Average national hotel rates are up 8% to $160 a night compared to $148 last year; daily car rental rates are down 4% to $36 from $38 last year.
Two-thirds (65%) of travelers said they expect to visit with friends and relatives and 69% say they expect to dine out. The beach will attract 48% of the travelers, 37% expect to do some shopping and 19% will visit a theme or amusement park.
Gas prices have been steadily declining in South Carolina since early April and are expected to continue to do so in the next several weeks due to abundant supplies, a weak Euro due to financial uncertainty in the European Union, slower economic growth in China and no oil-related threats in the Mid-East.
“We might see a slight stabilization in gas prices, or even a mild increase over the weekend, but prices should continue to drop well into June, unless some unforeseen event occurs,” said Parsons.
South Carolina requires in its road and bridge construction contracts that major holidays must have all lanes open, from roughly noon on Friday to 6 a.m. Tuesday to minimize traffic back-ups.
The start of Memorial Day begins the “100 deadliest days” for teen drivers, with 7 of the 10 most deadly days of the year occurring between Memorial Day and Labor Day, according to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety.
The biggest contributor to those fatal accidents are passengers in the car and AAA recommends parents discuss this and other driver distraction issues, like texting, with their teens, especially 16- and 17-old drivers.
Hotel bookings are up 11% over last Memorial Day and Carolinians have reserved roughly 18% more rental cars than this holiday last year, according to AAA Carolinas, operator of the largest leisure travel agency in the Carolinas. AAA Carolina members have requested 6% more Internet TripTiks® compared to the same time period last year.
The Memorial Day holiday survey data begins with Thursday, May 24 and ends Sunday May 27. Survey data is taken from AAA’s Leisure Travel Index, AAA/HIS Global Insight holiday travel forecast and AAA Carolinas data.
AAA Carolinas, an affiliate of the American Automobile Association, is a not-for-profit organization that serves more than 1.8 million members with travel, automobile and insurance services while being an advocate for the safety and security of all travelers.