The final Monday in May is a special one: It’s Memorial Day, when Americans honor those who gave their lives in defense of freedom and the American way. In the good ole days, it was called “Decoration Day”, which began in honor of both the Union and Confederate soldiers who died in the Civil War. In 1966, during the Vietnam War, President LBJ signed a proclamation naming Waterloo, New York the birthplace of Memorial Day 100 years earlier.
Memorial Day also marks the unofficial start to Summer (FYI: New Yorkers will remind you it marks the first day ladies can wear white shoes, bags and frocks). As Americans hit the road in force, gas prices generally tick higher in response to the increased demand. This does not include the Indy 500 race…Since consumer spending represents 70% of our economy, we are constantly monitoring spending habits.
Here come da stats:Over 30 Million Americans are expected to get away this weekend, which is nearly 10% of the US population. The average distance traveled is expected to be 700 miles roundtrip. That’s a whopping 21 billion miles traveled in 3 days, and over a billion gallons of gas. Fortunately, gas prices have not increased from last year. And since cars are so much more energy efficient today, Americans use 14% less gasoline today than in 2007. That means more money for the BBQ and friends and family.
According to the US Travel association, nearly 25% of leisure travel in the US today is planned via social media. Five years ago it was less than 2%. Las Vegas is the top destination for the Memorial Day weekend, based on hotel bookings. Disney World and Orlando come in 3rd. San Francisco comes in 9th. Our national parks are expecting record visitors this summer, and anticipate nearly 300 million visitors in 2014. The revamped Washington Monument will be a big draw this year.
Air travel is also expected to increase this summer, with bookings already up 3% from last year. International travel is on the rise. Americans are slated to return to Europe in size, with the most visitors since the recession. And Europeans are coming here this summer too. New York is the top destination for international visitors, with an estimated 55 Million people expected this year. Three of the Top 10 destinations are in California. Travel is great for the economy.
So enjoy Memorial Day weekend. Salute the flag and fire up the grills. But be careful on the road; a new danger is looming from texting and driving. It is estimated that 1 in 4 car accidents today is the result of distraction with smart phones. So put the phone down, turn up the music, and be careful behind the wheel this weekend.
We’ll be back dark and early Tuesday morning but not Monday because it’s…. you get it.
By: Mike Frazier