Memorial Day marks the unofficial beginning of summer, and more than 41.5 million Americans are expected to travel this Memorial Day weekend, marking a 5 percent increase from last year and the most in nearly 12 years.
Combined with recent geopolitical anxieties over Syria and the United States’ rejection of the Iran nuclear deal, the expected spike in gas prices ahead of Memorial Day means Tennesseans will be spending more to fill their tanks, according to a Monday AAA report.
Gas prices recently rose again in anticipation of Memorial Day weekend, with the national average gas price standing at $2.87 on Sunday — 53 cents higher than this time last year. Tennessee’s gas prices rose 3 cents in the last week, standing at $2.62 per gallon — the highest daily price since November 2014.
“Higher gas prices will not be enough to keep travelers home this Memorial Day weekend,” Vicky Evans, assistant vice president of AAA travel sales development, said in a press release.
Even as gas prices rise like outdoor temperatures, AAA still expects an additional 2 million people will take to planes, trains, automobiles and other modes of transportation. INRIX, a global transportation analytics company, expects travel delays on major roads could be 2-3 times longer than normal, with the busiest days being May 24 and 25, as commuters mix with holiday travelers.
While rising gas prices are never good news for motorists, the expected uptick in Memorial Day travel does, however, mean more revenue for Johnson City and the surrounding region, according to Convention and Visitors Bureau Director Brenda Whitson, who expects many to come through the area during the weekend.
Whitson said the downtown district is a perfect destination to find a lot to do in a short amount of time — from live music at Founders Park on Friday nights to restaurants and breweries within walking distance of Tweetsie Trail and other parks.
“We will see an uptick in our hotel occupancy during that weekend because people are looking for short weekend getaways,” Whitson said. “Memorial Day will be a great time for folks to come into town and start an early weekend.”