Experts predict slight gains in Labor Day travel, spending

Bicycle in traffic on the corner of Roosevelt St. and Central Ave. (Photo by Erin Johnson/Cronkite News)

Americans are projected to spend more than $13.5 billion on Labor Day air and road travel, according to a survey by the U.S. Travel Association.

Nationally, experts predict Labor Day weekend spending will increase by 2 percent over 2014, with the average person spending $380 on goods and services, the survey said.

Consumer confidence continues to increase and that fuels travel spending.

A projected 1.4 million Arizonans will travel 50 or more miles from home over the holiday, a slight increase from last year, AAA Arizona spokeswoman Michelle Donati said.

“We are not projecting to see huge growth by any means, but it’s still a very strong summer for travel,” she said. “It’s good news for the travel industry and the economy.”

Americans traveling by car should expect some relief at the pump over Labor Day weekend: Officials estimated gas prices will hit their lowest point since since 2004, according to AAA Arizona.

The statewide average gas price dropped 7 cents to $2.54 a gallon, while Phoenix gas prices averaged $2.48 as of Thursday, a 9 cent drop from last week. Nationwide, prices dropped about 10 cents to $2.44, according to AAA Arizona.

Tucson and Flagstaff hold both the lowest and highest rates in the state, at $2.30 and $2.82 per gallon, respectively.

Low crude oil prices and abundant supply are driving gas prices down this year, Donati said.
Trip spending by auto travelers is expected to average $270 per person, according to the U.S. Travel Association survey.

Experts said they expect air travel to increase over Labor Day weekend as well. An estimated 257,000 people will travel from Arizona by air this year, Donati said.

The travel association survey indicated that individual air travelers will spend about $1,090 on average, for a total weekend spending figure of $2.9 billion nationally, which is a year-over-year increase of 4.9 percent, according to the U.S. Travel Association.

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport plans a 20-percent increase in passengers over Labor Day weekend, said Heather Lissner, Phoenix aviation department spokeswoman.

“We’ve had an increase in passengers month-over-month compared to last year. It’s busier here over at Sky Harbor over last year,” she said. “The operations staff and airlines are all on hand to help travelers with questions. We offer travel tips on our website and have a great navigator program.”

Air travel on domestic flights to Arizona destinations increased by 3.9 percent in 2014, the strongest growth since before the recession, according to a report by the Arizona Office of Tourism.

However, Arizonans who don’t plan to travel can take advantage of Labor Day specials, if they are in the market for a new car.

“Labor Day weekend is the Black Friday for car shopping,” Donati said. “If you are staying in town, you may want to consider shopping and taking advantage of rebates.”