December 15, 2010 / 6:06 AM / 9 years ago

U.S. year-end travel seen up 3.1 percent: AAA

A pilot stands near stranded passengers in Tenerife's Los Rodeos airport after flights were cancelled due to a mass walkout of air traffic controllers, in Spain's Canary Islands December 3, 2010. REUTERS/Santiago Ferrero

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The number of Americans traveling for year-end holidays this year is expected to rise 3.1 percent from 2009 due to a modestly improved economic environment and pent-up demand, travel and auto group AAA said on Wednesday.

Close to 92.3 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles from home during the holiday period, which AAA defined as falling between December 23 and January 2.

This is a modest increase from the 89.5 million who traveled for the holidays last year.

About 3.2 percent more Americans will take to the roads this year and those flying will rise by 2.8 percent, the group said. This holiday season 93 percent of travelers will travel by car.

The national average gasoline price has climbed recently and is currently above $2.90 cents per gallon, 25 cents higher than a year ago, AAA said in its report.

Data from the U.S. Department of Energy shows national average retail gasoline price hit its highest level in 26 months at $2.98 a gallon in the week to December 13.

However, consumer optimism has risen, despite higher gasoline prices, and is expected to persist through the holiday season, the group added.

Reporting by Selam Gebrekidan; Editing by Walter Bagley

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