published Wednesday, November 21st, 2012

Chattanooga expected to gain by increasing holiday travel

Travelers get boarding passes and check their baggage as holiday traffic picks up at the Chattanooga Airport early Tuesday afternoon.
Travelers get boarding passes and check their baggage as holiday traffic picks up at the Chattanooga Airport early Tuesday afternoon.
Photo by Dan Henry.

BY THE NUMBERS

• 39.1 million: Number of people expected to travel via automobile this Thanksgiving holiday.

• 3.1 million: Travelers who will fly to their destination

• $498: Average amount Thanksgiving travelers are expected to spend

GAS PRICES

Gasoline prices, on average, are a nickel per gallon cheaper in Chattanooga than a year ago after declining by 31 cents a gallon in the past month.

• Current: $3.12

• Week ago: $3.15

• Month ago: $3.43

• Year ago: $3.17

Source: AAA

Tammy Hudson was in Chattanooga on Tuesday as a stopping point on her way to Pigeon Forge, Tenn., for Thanksgiving.

"We always go up there," said the Gulf Shores, Ala., woman outside the Tennessee Aquarium. "From the beach to the mountains."

Hudson is joining more than 39 million people who are expected to travel on the roads for the Thanksgiving holiday, according to AAA. The number is up slightly from last year, and Southeast travelers are forecast to journey an average of 525 miles round trip, AAA said.

Chattanooga is likely to see an uptick in people traveling to the Scenic City during the holiday period, said Bob Doak, who heads the city's Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The city had an 8 percent hike in hotel business by revenue in October compared with the same period last year, said Doak, and he hopes the trend will continue.

At downtown Chattanooga hotels, business was up 13 percent, he said.

"We're seeing an increase in Web traffic," Doak added.

Timely Alternative

Meanwhile, Chattanooga Airport has been touted by the Huffington Post as an alternative to busy Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport over the holidays.

In a story titled "8 Airports to Avoid this Holiday Season," Atlanta's airport was cited for a slew of late departures. Citing the U.S. Bureau of Transportation, the story said that more than 16 percent of Hartsfield-Jackson takeoffs were late between January and September.

"You may want to consider an alternative route if you value timeliness. Clear for takeoff: Chattanooga Airport," the story said.

It said that if someone doesn't mind spending more time behind the wheel, Chattanooga Airport is just a two-hour ride and doesn't see nearly as many passengers. Chattanooga only served around 600,000 passengers in 2011 compared with 92 million at America's busiest airport.

Chattanooga Airport spokeswoman Christina Siebold said passenger traffic is even lighter than usual during Thanksgiving because the city typically services more business travelers than leisure.

"We'll see an increase in leisure travelers" over Thanksgiving, she said. "Our airport is ideal for people not on the road all the time. There's a lot less hassle."

Cheaper gas

While gas prices are falling a little, they're still more than a year ago nationally, according to AAA.

Last Thanksgiving the national average for a gallon of gas was $3.32, according to AAA. The current national average is $3.44. However, Chattanooga gas prices are slightly down from a year ago, AAA said.

Mike Gordon, of Pittsburgh, who also was outside the Aquarium on Tuesday, said fuel prices are cheaper here than in his city.

Gordon said he came to Chattanooga to spend Thanksgiving. His daughter is coming from another city and they decided to meet at his sister's residence in Chattanooga, he said.

Contact Mike Pare at mpare@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6318.

about Mike Pare...

Mike Pare, the deputy Business editor at the Chattanooga Times Free Press, has worked at the paper for 27 years. In addition to editing, Mike also writes Business stories and covers Volkswagen, economic development and manufacturing in Chattanooga and the surrounding area. In the past he also has covered higher education. Mike, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., received a bachelor’s degree in communications from Florida Atlantic University. he worked at the Rome News-Tribune before ...

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