Labor Day travel may be highest in years, AAA says

08/20/2013 10:31 PM

08/20/2013 10:32 PM

The number of Americans traveling for the Labor Day holiday weekend will climb to the most in five years as consumer confidence boosts spending, AAA forecast.

Since South Carolina is a holiday destination, the busy Labor Day weekend could be particularly good for business this year, tourism officials say.

“We are extremely pleased that our state has been experiencing pretty steady growth in tourism throughout this summer,” said John Durst, South Carolina Restaurant and Lodging Association president and CEO. “Every indication, therefore, is that we should have a very good Labor Day weekend.”

People taking trips 50 miles or more from home will increase to 34.1 million from 32.7 million last year, according to AAA, the nation’s largest motoring organization, in its annual outlook.

That’s the highest level of travel since five years ago, when 45.1 million travelers took to the roads in the midst of the Great Recession.

The long Labor Day holiday weekend runs from Aug. 29 to Sept. 2.

“Consumers are the most upbeat they have been since early 2008,” according to AAA, citing optimism fueled in part by a strengthening housing market.

More vacationers will drive this year, than fly, the report said. Travel by automobile will rise 4.3 percent to 29.2 million travelers from 28 million a year ago. The number of air travelers during the holiday will increase 2.8 percent to 2.61 million from 2.54 million a year ago, making up 8 percent of travel, AAA says.

That could be due to better gas prices, which are about 2.7 percent lower than this time last year nationwide and predicted to stay relatively low, AAA said. Gas prices in South Carolina are among the lowest in the nation going into the Labor Day weekend, which means vacationers could spend more on lodging and food.

A gallon of unleaded regular in South Carolina averaged $3.21 Tuesday, according to AAA, compared to $3.43 a year ago and more than $4 a gallon in 2008.

The average distance traveled during the holiday will be 594 miles, down from 626 miles a year earlier, while spending will rise to $804 from $749 per trip, AAA said, based on the median estimate.

Staff writer Roddie Burris and Bloomberg News contributed.

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