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Travel Industry Seeking to Revive Summer Vacation Season Graphic

May 23, 1991

NEW YORK (AP) _ The continuing recession is putting a damper on the start of the summer vacation season as travelers are expected to spend less on shorter trips.

More than 24 million Americans, at least 10 percent of the population, are expected to travel over the Memorial Day holiday, the traditional start of the summer vacation season.

Most will travel by auto, said researchers for the Data Center, a non- profit travel research agency based in Washington, D.C. that based its predictions on a national telephone survey of 1,500 adults.

″They’re not traveling nearly as much as they should,″ said Bob Gavin, who owns 4 Star, a tour company and bus charter in Milwaukee. ″The industry is struggling, but nobody’s cutting their prices. The guy at the turnstyle is paying through the nose.″

Riverboat gambling, launched in April on the Mississippi, is the lone star of the upcoming season, Gavin said.

″Missississpi gambling is going gangbusters,″ he said. ″People just love gambling.″

Those headed to other destinations are choosing to drive rather than fly to save money. However, the American Automobile Association says the nationwide average cost of a gallon of gasoline has risen 8 cents since March to about $1.16 a gallon.

″Americans still want to take their vacation trips this summer despite the current economic conditions,″ Suzanne Cook, director of the U.S Travel Data Center, said. ″They will just be changing from the way they traveled in past summers.″

AAA researchers said greater demand for auto travel routings, up 5 percent for the first four months of the year, indicates about 84 percent of all summer vacationers will travel by car.

″Domestic travel is bursting at the seams,″ said Courtney MacInnis, spokeswoman for the American Society of Travel Agents. ″People are adapting their plans to their budgets.″

The latest fare war among airlines, launced by Northwest Airlines last weekend, should stimulate air travel among families, said Eric Munro, chief executive of Uniglobe Wide-World Travel of San Diego.

The promotion, which several other carriers matched, offers reduced round- trip fares for adults and half-price tickets for the children who accompany them.

″The market went up right after the war, then flattened out,″ Munro said, adding that the marketing campaign ″might improve the picture″ if the recession continues to recede.

″I don’t think that many people are going to rush out and buy tickets,″ he added. ″I think the airlines are going to have to continue the deadlines.″

In an ASTA survey of travel agents released this week, 80 percent of those polled said their clients were planning summer vacations within North America. The trade group, which represents 20,000 travel agents, rental car companies and other tourism groups, said internationally, Mexico and Caribbean islands offered the most value for the travel dollar.

MacInnis described the increase in domestic travel as a long-term benefit that could contribute to the country’s recovery from a recession that began a year ago.

Domestic air travel was down 2 percent in April from the previous month, while international travel fell 11 percent, said William Jackman, spokesman for Air Transport Association, an airline industry group.

While carriers are reporting good advanced bookings for summer travel - and could set a record - the industry is still reeling from the fall in travel during the Gulf War, Jackman said.

″We’re just now, domestically, getting back to last year’s air travel levels,″ Jackman said. ″International travel is still down substantially.″

While Memorial Day travel may not serve as a harbinger for the summer travel season since vacationers’ trips are so short, travel analysts said it will become apparent in a few weeks whether the industry will rebound from disappointing winter sales.