Holiday travel looks optimistic despite attacks

Sept. 11 takes small toll on longtime holiday traveling tradition.

As the holiday season approaches, many people will consider taking vacations and honor the longtime tradition of traveling to see family and friends.

One question to ponder is what kind of an effect the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks have had on the nation in the way of travel and how travel in the future will be different.

Greg Seiter, media relations manager for AAA home office in Indianapolis, said travel this holiday season has decreased due to the attacks, but the decrease is surprisingly small, and travel has been slowly recovering.

"AAA is projecting a six-percent decrease, mostly because of airline travel," Seiter said.

Dennis Rosebrough, public affairs director for the Indianapolis International Airport said there has been a decrease in airline travel, but it is steadily rising. In September, airline travel had decreased 51 percent, but in October, the number was only 19 percent.

"Flying is such a fundamental part of our life these days," Rosebrough said. "People are accustomed to flying and need to fly for business purposes."

Though air travel has decreased significantly but is slowly and steadily rising, the toll on automobile travel was much less dramatic.

Seiter said that the decrease in automobile travel is slightly over one percent, due to the lowering of gas prices nationwide.

Seiter said, according to AAA's statistics, 34.6 million people will travel at least 50 miles this holiday season, and traveling by car will be the option most likely chosen by travelers.

Seiter said that even with this much car travel, gas prices have remained considerably low.

"There's really no reason why gas prices should climb anymore than they are right now," Seiter said.

He said the price of crude oil is currently $20 to $21 a barrel, compared to $30 per barrel before Sept. 11.

Alderson said she plans to travel by car to Madison and Dayton, Ohio to visit in-laws this holiday season. Though she has never flown before, she said that she would be consider flying more now than before because she feels that airline security is much tighter, and flying will be much safer in the future.

Rosebrough reinforced Alderson's perception.

He said that most people feel this way about airline travel, because of the increased security precautions, and most people are traveling because they have already purchased tickets prior to Sept. 11 and feel they need to use them.

But AAA is not doing much different to promote travel, other than what it would do for holiday promotions because of traditional holiday travel.

Seiter said that the travel trends reflect what's been going on in the last five years, not just what has happened in the last few months. He said that people are taking shorter trips and mostly trips by car.

But at the same time, people are flying more and becoming more comfortable with it, according to Rosebrough.

"It's going to take a few more months before things get back to normal as far as passenger volume," Rosebrough said.

So, whether traveling by car or by airplane, statistics show that even in the aftermath of Sept. 11, travel for the holidays looks optimistic.


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