We Take a Look at Data from Cost2Drive for Clues
With gas prices skyrocketing over the past few months its all but certain that they’re weighing heavily on travelers’ minds, and so we decided to take a look at some data from Cost2Drive.com to see if we could discern any clues to how high gas prices are impacting spring travel.
If we look at the overall visitors to Cost2Drive from March 1 through April 15 we see that the number of visitors has more than doubled from the previous year. No doubt this is due to a combination of high gas prices and a still-struggling economy that is compelling travelers to seek out these types of trip planning tools.
The good news is it doesn’t appear that people have lost interest in traveling for spring break as 19.2% of the 62,000 searches on Cost2Drive during this period were for spring break destinations compared with 18.6% in the previous year.
When we take a look at destinations travelers are searching for in advance of spring break its not surprising that locations in Florida dominate the list. In fact 37% of all searches on Cost2Drive during this period had somewhere in Florida as the destination, with Chicago to Orlando being the most popular route. The average trip length entered was 866 miles (one way) which indicates Cost2Drive is attracting a disproportionate share of long-distance car travelers.
Looking at the specific destinations we see that Orlando, Fl was the clear leader when measured against all spring break destinations, capturing 40% of those searches. There were over 4,500 searches for Orlando (including over 300 searches for Disney World) which represented nearly 8% of all searches on Cost2Drive during this period. This means that one out of every 12 1/2 searches had Orlando or Kissimmee as the destination.
Las Vegas was the second most popular spring break destination searched on Cost2Drive with 12% of searches, followed by Miami/Fort Lauderdale with 11%. The Florida panhandle, which includes Panama City, Pensacola and Destin, came in fourth with 9% share of all spring break destination searches.
When comparing the percentage of searches year-over-year we see some interesting patterns emerge.
For example, the largest increase in share was for Hilton Head, SC, the second northernmost destination on the list behind Myrtle Beach. Their share of searches for spring break destinations increased from .7% to 1.4% (+77%). Meanwhile the largest decrease in share was for Key West, Fl, the southernmost destination on the list, who’s share decreased from 3.2% to 2.1% (-33%). From this data one might infer that high gas prices are leading people to seek spring break destinations that are closer to home, which sounds like a logical assumption. This would also be supported by the increase of search share for Myrtle Beach (+15%) and the Florida Panhandle (+26%).
However anomalies still exist, as Naples and Fort Myers’ search share grew 19% while the share for their neighbors to the north in the Tampa and St. Petersburg area declined 16%. Also the decrease in share for two West Coast destinations, Disneyland (-27%) and Las Vegas (-17%), might be attributed to the fact that many of the key feeder markets for these destinations are in California, which has the highest gas prices in the continental US.
Its always risky to draw conclusions on single data points, and cause and effect can be tricky to measure, but there do seem to be some trends emerging around shorter trips due to high gas prices. The good news is, it doesn’t appear that people have stopped traveling…at least not yet.
One thing is for sure however, people are becoming increasingly interested in trip planning tools like Cost2Drive to help them better plan their car trips.
What are you observations? Feel free to share them below.