AAA estimates a rise in Memorial Day trips, increased interest in travel seen in Central Illinois

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PEORIA, Ill. (WMBD) – AAA is predicting a big boost in the number of people taking trips this Memorial Day weekend. Leaders say it is happening as more people gain confidence in travel.

AAA says they expect a 60 percent increase in holiday travelers compared to last year.

With Memorial Day just around the corner, Peoria International Airport is anticipating more seats to be filled.

“It’s certainly going to be busier than certainly last year, and probably even a little busier than last month,” said Gene Olson, Director of Airports at Peoria International Airport.

For example, over the next month, Olson says seat availability suggests American Airlines travelers could be down just 13 percent compared to 2019.

“To get within 13 percent of normal, that’s pretty good progress for this time of year,” Olson said.

Local travel agents say they also seeing an increased interest in trips as the summer months approach.

“We actually had kind of an open house last week and we had 300 people attend,” said Amanda Schott, Certified Travel Agent with Peoria Charter.

Schott says she’s witnessed travelers looking at international locations and popular spots in the U.S.

“A lot of national parks, beaches like Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina,” she said.

As some are looking to vacation away from Central Illinois, there are others coming in to enjoy their Memorial Day.

“At least a quarter of our occupancy is from people that aren’t even from around here,” said Stuart Whitaker, Jubilee College State Park Superintendent.

Whitaker says after a strong holiday last year, he says early indication is that 2021 will be no different.

“We’ve only got right now approximately 20 open reservable campsites for Memorial Day weekend and we are still probably two weeks out,” he said.

As travel begins to pick up, Peoria International Airport is also adding new flights.

On the Thursday and Friday before Memorial Day flights to Sarasota and Denver are beginning.

AAA says they expect 2.5 million people to travel by air Memorial Day weekend. That number is nearly six times the amount in 2020.

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