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Published May 24, 2010, 12:00 AM

Area a leader in Memorial Day travel

AAA predicts that the West North Central Region of North Dakota and Minnesota will lead the nation in Memorial Day weekend vacation travel with 14 percent of its residents heading out for some rest and relaxation.

AAA predicts that the West North Central Region of North Dakota and Minnesota will lead the nation in Memorial Day weekend vacation travel with 14 percent of its residents heading out for some rest and relaxation.

It’s unusual for this region to outperform the rest of the nation in percentage of vacation travelers, said AAA spokesman Gene LaDoucer. North Dakota’s economy has outperformed the general economy over the past year, contributing to the positive Memorial Day forecast for the region, he said in a news release.

AAA also expects the region to see travel expand 8.3 percent over last year’s holiday, with 91.3 percent of the region’s travelers voyaging by automobile.

Nationally, AAA cites an improved economic environment and expects vacation travel in the U.S. this Memorial Day weekend to jump by more than 5 percent as 32.1 million hit the skies and roads.

In addition to increased economic optimism, LaDoucer pointed to “pent-up demand” as people have stayed home or not traveled at all for some time.

Cole Carley, president and CEO of the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Americans believe travel is a “birthright.”

“They’re used to being able to travel, and if they want to go, they go,” he said. “It’s been a little more of a challenge with the economy, but sooner or later, they go.”

The predicted rise in vacation travel comes as prices at the pump are up. According to the AAA-run website www.fuel

gaugereport.com, the average cost for a gallon of regular fuel was $2.812 as of Saturday, compared to $2.391 a year earlier.

While prices are higher, LaDoucer said that, historically speaking, they’re not outrageous.

“Two years ago, we were paying an average of $4 per gallon,” he said in an interview Thursday, comparing that to the current rate of less than $3. While higher gas prices are a concern, LaDoucer said, they don’t curtail travel for most families.

AAA expects the positive travel news to continue throughout the summer, LaDoucer said.

Carley looks for the trend to be felt here at home.

“I think travel this summer’s going to be very good, not only with people passing through in general, but we’ve got so many events that are coming up,” he said.

Traveling by the numbers

  • The average distance traveled by Americans this Memorial Day holiday weekend is expected to be about the same as one year ago: 626 miles versus 620 in 2009.

  • Median spending for travelers is estimated to be $809 this Memorial Day.

  • Travelers in the West North Central Region (which includes Minnesota and North Dakota) will spend the least on their travels

    at an average of just $294.

  • North Dakota is the least-expensive vacation destination in the U.S.

  • Average cost of a gallon of regular gas in Minnesota is $2.711; a year ago it was $2.384.

  • Average cost of a gallon of regular gas

    in North Dakota is $2.905; a year ago it was $2.382.

Source: AAA


Readers can reach Forum reporter Shane Mercer at (701) 451-5734

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