NEWPORT – Newport tourism agencies are feeling good as they gear up for the kickoff to the region’s peak tourist season this Labor Day weekend, thanks to recent travel predictions from the American Automobile Association and research group IHS Global Insight.
AAA and IHS predict that more people will travel in the United States this upcoming Labor Day holiday period (Thursday, Aug. 29, to Monday, Sept.2) than they have on any of the September breaks since the 2008 financial crisis. The agencies expect 34.1 million Americans to take a trip of 50 miles or more, a 4.2 percent increase from the 32.7 million that traveled during the holiday a year ago. Eighty-five percent of those travelers (29.2 million) will travel by automobile.
Falling unemployment, increased consumer spending, an improving housing market and faster economic growth are key contributing factors to the promising outlook.
“Considering our destination is within driving distance of 10 percent of the U.S. population, including key markets like New York, Philadelphia, Hartford, New Haven, Boston and points north, AAA’s forecast is encouraging,” said Evan Smith, president and CEO of Discover Newport. “The numbers are a positive economic indicator that travelers are increasingly optimistic about their financial future.”
Despite seeing fewer visitors than projected in June, visitation numbers from consecutive months showed an increase from 2012 and they’re expected to rise further with the approaching fall foliage season.
“Lodging performance reports from Smith Travel Research show that revenue for this past July was 5 percent higher compared with July 2012,” Smith said. “August numbers have been tracking up single digits as well. Perhaps most importantly, it’s imperative to recognize we have two solid months of peak travel ahead of us. September has historically been Newport’s most visited month as we typically welcome an entirely different demographic of travelers including 40-plus cruise ships, motor coach groups, corporate conferences, international travelers and fall foliage watchers.”
John Rodman, director of museum experience for The Preservation Society of Newport County, which operates the Newport Mansions, is equally encouraged by the increasing numbers of visitors seen this season. “This continues to be a tremendous season for us, with attendance running 6 percent ahead of last year’s record pace,” said Rodman. “And with our wine and food festival still ahead of us, our high season is far from over.”