Mountain states expect 2.7 million travelers this weekend

More people in the mountain states are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend than last year.

An estimated 2.7 million will load up the car and take off for a long weekend. They won’t go too far. They are expected to travel shorter distances – about 677 miles compared to last year’s Memorial Day adventures which was double that distance.

Part of the decreased distance is due to a decrease in air travel, said Wave Dreher, Colorado AAA spokeswoman.

“About 90 percent of travelers will travel by auto,” she said. “We are seeing a decline in air travel – down about 5.2 percent in the mountain region.”

The mountain region is Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming.

Travelers are also planning to spend less this weekend, she said. Last year, people spent on average about $870 per trip. This year, they expect to pay $652 per trip.

“One thing I found interesting, is that when they asked people what are your plans? Visiting family and shopping are usually big,” Dreher said. “The big thing this weekend is people said they would be visiting national and state parks, do sight-seeing and biking and hiking. That should be very good for Colorado.”

The survey of potential weekend travelers was completed a few months back when gasoline prices were higher, Dreher said. So more people could decide to jump in the car at the last minute and head out.

“It will be interesting to see what happens for Fourth of July and Labor Day,” she said.

Memorial is traditionally known as the kick off of the summer travel season. Overall, AAA projects 34.8 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, an increase of 1.2 percent – or 500,000 travelers – from the 34.3 million people who traveled one year ago.

The travel projections look very similar to 2007 numbers, said Chelsy Murphy, Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau spokeswoman. And that is a positive sign.

“We’re also optimistic about the fact that people will be traveling 50 or more miles away from home via mostly ground transportation,” she said. “Since we are an 85 percent drive market, this is a great thing for Colorado Springs.”