TED SIMONS: Good evening. Welcome to "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simon. Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional start of the summer driving season. How many will be hiding the roads this weekend and how are gas prices affecting those numbers. Michelle Donati joins us from Triple-A. Thanks for joining us. What do you see?
MICHELLE DONATI: We're seeing more Arizonans and more consumers nationwide are traveling for the upcoming weekends. Nationwide we're looking at nearly 35 million travelers. Here in Arizona more than 707,000. Those are up by a full percentage point, nationwide up by 1.2 and Arizona 1.6% over last year.
TED SIMONS: trending from the past few years you seeing more here?
MICHELLE DONATI: With Memorial Day travel there were about five bad years. Not necessarily bad years but years where we saw year over year decline this travel. The last two years we have seen recovery, that recovery has sustained itself. Very positive for the travel industry.
TED SIMONS: are you talking economic recovery or gas prices?
MICHELLE DONATI: Travel recovery. Five years we saw travel declines year over year over Memorial Day. We have seen two years of growing numbers, a very positive thing. That recovery has been able to sustain itself. That's a great thing for travel. Also a great thing for the hospitality industry.
TED SIMONS: How do the auto travelers, the number there, how does that compare to air travel, for example?
MICHELLE DONATI: Well, typically, auto travel is a dominant mode for transportation. That's just because you can put a family of four in a car and drive to San Diego, for example, one of the top destinations for Arizonans, and it's far cheaper than putting that family of four on a plane to the same destination. This holiday there's no exception to that. Nine in ten Arizonans will be driving to their destinations, so that's also up over last year. Air travel is down. Not really all that surprising because we're looking at consumer spending. Half of what they spent last year and traveling half as far as last year. Those are the two big trends. Spending less, traveling shorter distances. So the car is helping them do just that.
TED SIMONS: So it's economic recovery with a Small E and Small R.
MICHELLE DONATI: That's right. We have seen some stability, some economic recovery that's encouraged this travel, but at the same time consumers are being very creative, smart about their spending and they recall want to make every dollar count.
TED SIMONS: Speaking of dollars, what do we have for gas prices right now? Where do you see that going this summer?
MICHELLE DONATI: Nationwide prices are 3.68 a gallon, statewide 3.77 a gallon. The good news is that prices have now fallen for seven straight weeks heading into the holiday weekend which officially starts tomorrow. Prices are at an 11-week low. We have fallen by more than a dime from march, late march, but this is the most expensive Memorial Day on record that we have. So moving into this holiday consume letters pay more for gas than they ever have in previous years leading into Memorial Day.
TED SIMONS: Again, as far as by Labor Day what do you think?
MICHELLE DONATI: It's hard to say because there are a few things at play. We have seen price of crude change in stability, which is a great thing. That's enabled prices across the country to fall leading into this holiday weekend. That hasn't necessarily been the case in recent weeks with Arizona and the West Coast because there was a refinery issue, but Arizona was not all that impacted by that issue. That's a good thing. We didn't necessarily see prices increase as a result of that. Instead we saw them tighten up, but over the last week they have fallen by 2.5 cents. One of the biggest unknowns is hurricane season. We see that pick up and there's typically more activity later in the summer. It's hard to say what prices are going to be Labor Day. But looking ahead, there's really no reason why the current trend, downward trend, shouldn't continue.
TED SIMONS: Last question, there are concerns about drinking and driving over the holiday weekend. You guys have a tipsy tow service. What’s that about?
MICHELLE DONATI: Triple-A we recognize we're in a unique position. We have the largest towing operation in the state. We're also an advocacy organization. We want folks to celebrate responsibly. We recognize Memorial Day gatherings include alcohol consumption. One thing we offer on celebratory occasions is a tipsy tow service, a free tow and ride home up to ten miles available statewide. You don't have to be a Triple-A member to use it.
TED SIMONS: Interesting. But you have to go home, you can’t go to another spot?
MICHELLE DONATI: That's right. This isn't a party bus. We get calls every service period. You can't make a reservation. We're not going to take you to the next club or bar. We'll take you home one way.
TED SIMONS: Thanks for joining us.
MICHELLE DONATI: Thank you