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Wednesday, Oct 01, 2014
Business News

Holiday auto travel expected to be up this Labor Day

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More people are expected to travel by car in Florida this Labor Day weekend than on any Labor Day in the past six years. And gas prices won’t be as difficult to stomach as they have been in some years, AAA The Auto Club Group reports.

Gas prices have been steadily falling here since Fourth of July weekend, said AAA spokesman Mark Jenkins, though pump prices have ticked up this week. The average price for regular gasoline on Wednesday in the Tampa Bay region was $3.25 per gallon. “I would attribute that to rising demand,” Jenkins said.

The high number of travelers is almost surely related to consumers having more disposable income, he said.

Overall, some 1.7 million people in Florida are expected to travel over the long weekend, which runs today through Monday. Of those, about 86 percent will travel by auto and 131,000 will travel by air, according to AAA.

Most will be visiting tourist attractions, beaches and cities, Jenkins said.

Some of that disposable income may be headed to Orlando, where hotels.com is offering $30 off to those who book hotels by Sunday. And for air travelers, some will likely be headed from Florida to Las Vegas for the long weekend, with several hotels offering 50 percent off of their regular prices.

Taylor Cole, public relations director for hotels.com North America said Vegas is always a popular tourist destination for Floridians because they can fly in and reach a hotel within 15 minutes. And, she said, there are great deals on hotel rooms.

For those driving within Florida, or coming here from out of state, Destin and Miami Beach are two of the most popular destinations this weekend, according to internet search results, Cole said.

Visit Florida, the official tourist agency for the state, has a couple of lures of its own that out-of-state visitors and Floridians can use this weekend. One is called Floridagram, a site where visitors can use a template to create a picture post card to send out through facebook, Twitter or Instagram, said Kathy Torian, corporate communications manager for Visit Florida. Actor Daniel Stern narrates the Floridagrams.

Visit Florida has also created a Beach Finder, a web site where people can go to find Florida beaches, then sort through them using a set of choices, like romantic, adventurous, isolated or bird watching. The site sorts various preferences so visitors can view actual footage of the beaches through Google Maps.

The website also offers a page of deals that include cuisine, attractions and locations, Torian said.

Fun fact: When a Labor Day weekend starts in August and ends in September, more people tend to get out and about, AAA’s Jenkins said. “It’s just one of those fun little stats, probably because people think of August as still being summer and they think of September as time to get down to business at school and work.”

And gas prices certainly have an impact on Labor Day travel, he said. “It’s been really great,” with lower prices lately, Jenkins said. Since the beginning of August, gas prices in the state have fallen an average of 7 cents per gallon, from $3.43 for regular to $3.36 on Wednesday.

Floridians, on Labor Day weekend last year, paid an average of $3.59 for regular gas. The most recent low came in 2010 when gas was selling for $2.68 per gallon.

Compared to last year, drivers in 43 states and Washington, D.C. are paying less at the pump, said AAA Public Relations Manager Michael Green. “Consumers in 34 states and Washington, D.C. are saving a dime or more per gallon, led by Delaware and New Jersey (-20 cents).”

Nearly 35 million Americans will travel this weekend, Green said.

yhammett@tampatrib.com

(813) 259-7127

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