By Jarrett Renshaw
NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. travelers will hit the roads, rails and airports in record numbers this Fourth of July holiday, despite higher gasoline prices, the nation's largest automotive advocacy group said on Thursday.
Some 46.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles (80 km) over the upcoming July Fourth holiday, the fifth consecutive annual increase and highest travel volume since the group began tracking data 18 years ago, according to the AAA, or American Automobile Association.
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The holiday period is defined this year as July 3 to July 8.
Gas prices have fallen a bit since the 2018 high of $2.97 a gallon set over Memorial Day weekend, the last weekend in May. The national average gas price was $2.87 on Wednesday, up 59 cents from a year ago.
Despite higher prices, automobile travel is expected to increase for the fourth straight year, rising 5.1 percent or nearly 2 million more than in 2017, to 39.7 million travelers, the AAA said.
“Confident consumers with additional disposable income will look to spend on travel this holiday, building on an already busy summer travel season," said Bill Sutherland, senior vice president, AAA Travel and Publishing.
Air travel volume will increase to 3.76 million passengers, 7.9 percent more than last year. With the holiday falling on a Wednesday, air travel is helped by enabling more flexibility to fly either before or after the holiday, the group said.
U.S. gasoline demand, which accounts for roughly 10 percent of global demand, hit record highs last year thanks in part to a strong summer driving season.
(Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Editing by Marguerita Choy)