Bad Economy Hurting Holiday Travel

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Thanksgiving usually contains two things most Americans seem to love to do -- shop and travel.

But it appears the bad economy may be hurting past times this year.

With gas below $2.00 a gallon almost everywhere, you would expect many more holiday travelers to drive this Thanksgiving.

"It makes it much easier to travel by car, because the gas prices have lowered," said one motorist. "So I'm looking forward to going."

Travel Business Down

But the sour economy has soured about 600,000 thousand Americans on going anywhere at all. In fact, travel has dropped now for the last four holidays.

"I really think the economy is so rough right now, people can't afford to travel," a passerby said.

Or if they can, they're cutting back.

"People are still traveling," said Travelocity's Jennifer Gaines. "But they are choosing to travel either for Thanksgiving or for Christmas, but not necessarily for both."

Air travel's down almost 10 percent compared to last Thanksgiving.

"I'm looking around the airport and I'm seeing something that's very surprising to me. There's no one in the airport," one traveler said. "So, I'm a little concerned that maybe what they're saying about the economy is true."

"I don't think people are going out of town this year," another man said. "I think they're just going to kind of work together and do some potluck and stay home and pray to God they keep their houses."

The savviest among those that could still afford to fly beat the rush by hitting the airports Tuesday -- avoiding Wednesday, the busiest travel day of the year.

"I'm trying to get out early," another traveler said. "So I don't have to hassle with it tomorrow."

"We were trying to avoid Wednesday," another person explained. "Because Wednesday's a disaster, usually."

Will Black Friday Really Boost Store Profits?

But folks staying in town may still be heading out -- to hit the stores on what's usually the busiest shopping day of the year -- Black Friday. It's day retailers have traditionally gone into the black for the year and started making profits.

But that profit is in real doubt this year with so many nervous Americans cutting back on their buying.

"And what I'm finding is that a lot of my regular weekly customers don't have the money to come in," said business owner Al Cohen.

Retailers say September was awful, October even worse.

"Like everybody else in the retail business, I'm struggling," Cohen said.

The only hope for many stores is to slash prices now.

"When you've got about 30 kids at Christmastime, I have seven families," one shopper explained. "I want all the bargains I can get."

It's the hope of bargains on Black Friday that spurred some young people to camp out in front of a Best Buy in California since Monday.

The teens say it's just like camping.

"Exactly," one teen said. "With all your friends, but it's like right here next to home."

"You've got to be number one to get the good deals," another one said.

Retailers usually ring up 10 percent of their holiday sales during those three days after Thanksgiving. With a year that's been tough so far, they are more desperate than ever to make those sales this weekend.

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CBN News
Paul Strand

Paul Strand

CBN News Washington Sr. Correspondent

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