Gas prices could reduce holiday travel
This will be the most expensive Christmas for driving on record if gas prices in the Washington region continue their climb to $3 a gallon for regular, the American Automobile Association predicted based on its weekly gas price survey.
The average has hit a two-year high of $2.97, two cents per gallon higher than the national average, the AAA said. While gas prices locally and national have gone well above the $3 threshold in the past, they've never been that high during the Christmas season.
"Consumers have a visceral disdain for $3 gasoline," said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman. "The timing of this couldn't be worse, coming during the Christmas shopping season and when consumer confidence is already listless. Whenever gas prices soar to these heights, consumers spend more on fuel and tend to spend less of their disposable incomes on Christmas presents and other purchases.
"This could have a chilling effect upon consumer confidence. Let us not forget, the last time gas prices spiked like this, the recession kicked in. Research shows that consumer confidence has not completely rebound."
Townsend said it was too early to forecast whether high gas prices would influence holiday travel, but they have in the past. Travel by people in the Washington region dropped by 4.2 percent last Christmas of 2008, when gas prices were 94 cents higher than the had been the previous year.
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