The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are among the busiest long-distance travel periods of the year. Although many professional drivers have delivered their loads and are home for the holidays, passenger traffic skyrockets.
Wendi Powell, manager at Big Boys Truck Stop in Kenly, N.C., said, “Professional drivers are pretty much home. We’re busier during that period with the locals than with the professional truck drivers.”
Rex Davis, president of Melvin L. Davis Oil Co., which operates locations in Stony Creek and Warfield, Va., said, “We get busy from the 17th or 18th of December through a few days after New Year’s Day.”
During the six-day Thanksgiving travel period, the number of long-distance trips to and from a destination 50 miles away or more increases by 54 percent, and during the Christmas/ New Year’s holiday period the number rises by 23 percent, according to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics’ Research and Innovative Technology Administration.
About 91 percent of long-distance holiday travel is by personal vehicle. Research conducted by The NATSO Foundation revealed that cleanliness, safety and convenience are among the top priorities for travelers when choosing where to stop. Nearly all travelers who took part in the survey said they like locations that offer one-stop shopping for food, gas and restrooms. They also like to see a location’s signage from the road and want signs to clearly describe the services the location offers.
Locations do try to go above and beyond during the holidays to make travelers and the remaining professional drivers on the road feel welcome. Lowell Mill Restaurant at Big Boys Truck Stop offers a traditional buffet during the holidays with turkey and ham.
Davis said employees hand out candy canes as a way to thank professional drivers for coming in.
Extreme weather often accompanies the holidays. Cindee Biggers, operations manager for Bowlin Travel Centers, said the company’s 10 locations do not operate 24 hours a day but will stay open when there are road closures.
“We’ve had a few times when they’ve closed the road and we’ll leave our stores open and keep the coffee going so they aren’t stranded,” Biggers said. “They can be together, out of the cold and have coffee until the roads open up.”
This article originally ran in Stop Watch magazine. Stop Watch provides in-depth content to assist NATSO members in improving their travel plaza business operations and provides context on trends and news affecting the industry.
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