At least 3.3 million Southern Californians are expected to travel on this Memorial Day over the weekend, the latest sign of a post-pandemic recovery for the region’s hard-hit tourism industry.
This marks a 7.7% increase from last year and 0.5 percentage points higher than 2019, according to the Southern California Automobile Club forecast. Nationally, about 42.3 million Americans are expected to travel for the weekend, up 7% from 2022 and down 1% from 2019.
Heather Felix, vice president of travel products at Auto Club, said: “This summer travel season could be one of record, especially at airports. “Although fares are higher than last year, demand for flights is skyrocketing and this Memorial Day weekend could be the busiest at airports since 2005.”
At least 2.8 million Southern California residents are expected to travel by car, up 6% from 2022 but down 0.3% from 2019, according to Auto Club. Some 358,000 people are expected to travel by plane — up 11% from 2022 and up 7% from 2019.
Gas prices have also dropped, from an average of $5.89 per gallon last year in the Los Angeles-Long Beach area to $4.85 per gallon, according to Auto Club. The average price of regular gasoline in California is $4.81 a gallon, about four cents lower than last week.
The travel and tourism industry has been hit hard by the travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic and is still recovering.
California’s tourism industry is also being hit by inflation and the potential for a recession, leading to labor shortages and a drop in international visitors from pre-pandemic levels.
Tourism spending in the state has plummeted from $144.85 billion in 2019 to $68 billion in 2020, according to Visit California, the state’s tourism agency. That number has grown to $102 billion in 2021 and $134 billion in 2022.
Spending numbers continue to rise again this year and show promise for recovery in the industry.
In April, the Southern California Automobile Club reported that trips outside the United States were up more than 200% from 2022. Hotel bookings were also up more than 300% year over year.
Los Angeles itself has witnessed highest level of tourism this year since the pandemic. Visitor spending hit 89 percent of 2019 levels this year, according to a report by the Los Angeles Convention and Tourism Commission.