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Vacation Savings Already Spent On Rainy Days

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Host Liane Hansen speaks with NPR Senior Business Editor Marilyn Geewax about how the recession may be affecting travel this summer.


On this Memorial Day weekend, economists say the outlook for the travel season is not great, thanks to a weak economy, the housing woes and worries about flu. Airlines are particularly gloomy about the downturn in travel. Here to tell us what may be coming for the travel industry is NPR's senior business editor Marilyn Geewax. Hi, Marilyn.


HANSEN: All this depressing news in recent months, do you thing many Americans will get to escape a little on vacation?

GEEWAY: Well, we do know that millions of families won't be able to, because this recession has knocked out about six million jobs since it's started. And we know that means there won't be record-breaking crowds at any of the destinations. An AP poll was taken recently and they found that about 42 percent of people say they'd take some kind of a leisure trip this summer. But back in 2005 when the economy was booming, 49 percent said they would. So, we know it's not great.

Still, I think there are reasons for some people to take trips because gasoline is so cheap. Remember that last year gas was about nearly twice what it is this year. AAA doesn't expect gas prices to exceed 2.50 this summer. So that should get some people out there traveling. And AAA thinks probably this weekend we'll see about 1.5 percent more travelers than last year.

HANSEN: We talked about gloomy airlines in the introduction to you. What about air travel?

GEEWAX: Well, air travel is not so great. The cheap gasoline, you can see that when you pull up to the gas station, but - and that may encourage you to want to take a trip - but getting on an airplane and going to a hotel, that's pretty expensive. So air travel is going to be down. The Air Transport Association estimates it'll be down about seven percent for the summer.

And here's one funny thing about that, though, is that even though travel will be down, they're planning to take a lot of planes out of commission. So it'll still be crowded. There will just be fewer people traveling, but you'll still be in a center seat.

HANSEN: So, for people who would really like to take a vacation, are there bargains out there?

GEEWAX: Yes, I think we can really find some pretty good bargains besides the gasoline situation. The car rentals are down. AAA says that it's $43 a day for an average car, compared with $45 last year. But the big thing is the hotels. Hotels are expected to be down about 12 percent for their room rates this summer. So that's going to be good for some people.

HANSEN: Yeah, talk about that. I mean, does this mean that with these bargains that some people will be able to take a better vacation?

GEEWAX: The AP poll found that about one family in five among more affluent people, families with incomes over 100,000, said that they hope to take more elaborate trips this year. So there really will be people out there scooping up those bargains and maybe upgrading from their usual trip. They'll get a -instead of the regular room, they'll get the luxury room with a view.

HANSEN: Well, let's hope everyone can squeeze in a little time for some fun this summer. Marilyn Geewax is NPR's business editor. Thanks a lot.

GEEWAX: You're welcome.

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