By CHRISTINA M. CURRIE
Daily Press writer
A declining economy and fear of traveling is what many industry experts believe will slow travel over the Christmas holiday this year.
AAA Colorado officials predict travel will be down 6 percent from 57.1million in 2000 to 53.7 million this year.
"The current recession and the nation's unemployment situation are the major contributors to the expected decline in holiday travel although continued concerns about air travel security by some Americans are also a factor," said Sandra Hughes, AAA travel vice president.
According to Jerry Cheske, AAA spokesman, travel decreased after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Centers and Pentagon, but confidence is building and people are starting to travel more.
"It's a positive sign that, despite the negative aspects in people's personal situations, the economy and loss of jobs, it's a very upbeat number," Cheske said.
Local businesses aren't feeling the pinch. In fact, many travel-related industries in Northwest Colorado are reporting favorable numbers.
"The information I have would indicate we would have some fairly overbooked airplanes," said Jim Parker, aviation director at the Yampa Valley Regional Airport.
All planes flying into Hayden on Christmas day are more than 70 percent booked, and some are overbooked, he said.
"The inbound loads for the holiday are very good," Parker said. "The outbound loads are starting to pick up too. We expect them to be 70, 80 and 90 percent full. I've said all along that I didn't think people would be afraid to get in airplanes after Sept. 11. We thought travel would cut back because of the economy, but airlines cut prices to counter that."
Parker attributes increasing consumer confidence to the safety measures that airports implemented after Sept. 11.
"Climbing on an airplane is probably safer than your drive home from the airport," he said. "The industry has done nearly everything that can be done to keep travelers safe."
Despite increasing safety measures among airlines, driving remains the number one mode of transportation for Americans.
Approximately 42.2 million travelers are expected to go by motor vehicle this holiday, while 11.5 million will travel by airplane, train or bus. The number of people traveling by car is expected to decrease 1 percent, while those using other forms of transportation are expected to decrease 20 percent.
Harold Ratzlaff, manager of the Greyhound Bus Terminal in Craig said travel by bus remains steady, mostly because of its affordability. Prices for those who travel more than seven days before Christmas have been discounted nearly by half.
"The numbers vary from one year to the next, but we average about five or six passengers a day and we have about that many coming in," Ratzlaff said. Summer and fall are heavier travel times for Greyhound than the holiday season, he said.
Ratzlaff maintains that traveling by bus is the safest form of transportation available.
"It's absolutely the safest. No question," he said. "In the 22 years I've been here, there have been two injuries. We run four busses a day, so that's a lot of busses."
According to Mikki O'Brien, manager of the Craig Holiday Inn, the hotel industry isn't seeing the predicted decrease in travelers either.
"We're a lot busier than usual," she said. "There are a lot more people on the road than flying."
O'Brien said a lot of families stop in Craig en route to their final destination.
According to an AAA Colorado survey, six percent of travelers are heading to the mountains, forty percent plan to visit a town or rural area and another 34 percent expect to go to a city.
Consider leaving one
day early. When returning,
consider leaving a day
later. Avoid rushing the
holiday by allowing plenty
of travel time. Don't make
the trip an endurance
routes. Taking a more scenic
road can liven up a
trip and the driver may
miss some heavy traffic.
Prepare vehicles in
advance by having them
serviced and winterized.
Take a cellular phone in
case of an emergency.
Watch the weather
report. In snow country,
take warm clothes and a
Do not obstruct the
driver's view of the road.
Gifts and suitcases should
be packed in the trunk, or
placed flatly in the rear of
the vehicle so that the
driver can see clearly out
of the rear windows.