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After plummeting between 2007 and 2008, the amount of money US travellers spend on travel and tourism has been consistently rising, reaching just above $660 billion at the start of 2011.

However, data from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) shows that recent spikes in airfare could be causing that steady increase to slow and are forcing more travellers out of the skies and onto the roads.

The BEA reports that airfares increased a steep 21% in the first quarter on 2011, after only increasing 4% in the last quarter of 2010. That kind of escalation is causing some travellers, and their companies, to put on the brakes when it comes to planning business trips or vacations. As a result, spending on air travel in the US declined nearly 10% in the first quarter of 2011 after increasing 3.5% in the fourth quarter of 2010.

But as spending on airfare declined, the amount US travellers spent on hotels increased nearly 13% in the first quarter of 2011 (up from 6% in the fourth quarter of 2010), which is evidence that more travellers have forsaken pricey flights for less expensive road trips and more hotel stays. Even though gasoline prices have risen about 33% from last year, hotel rates only increased 4% in the first quarter of 2011.

If you’re facing that choice for an upcoming trip, the Fly or Drive Calculator, helps travellers choose between flights or road trips.

What about you? Have higher prices slowed your plans for summer business or leisure trips? Are you driving more than flying this year? Please leave your comments on our Facebook page.

Chris McGinnis is the business travel columnist for BBC Travel

 

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