Travel Industry Expects Mixed Results For Labor Day While fewer people are expected to travel this Labor Day weekend than in 2008, it's not all bad news for the tourism industry. Travel experts predict that the weekend will still be busier than Memorial Day was this spring.

Travel Industry Expects Mixed Results For Labor Day

Travel Industry Expects Mixed Results For Labor Day

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Like a lot of businesspeople, travel agent Mike Savitt has had a slower-than-usual summer.

Savitt is the sales manager at Beeline Travel, a big agency in Raleigh, N.C. His sales have dipped as the economy has sputtered this year, and he says his Labor Day weekend business has been weak as well.

"It's down significantly from last year," Savitt says. "Last Labor Day was before things really started to go south."

Traditionally, Labor Day has been a time when Savitt's customers take short trips — both in distance and duration. They might spend a few days in Florida or take a quick jaunt to New York or Boston. But he says fewer people are booking trips this year, and even those who are traveling are trying to economize.

"Last year, we had people who went to the Copley Plaza in Boston, which is a very nice hotel. We had people who went to the Ritz-Carlton in Fort Lauderdale, which is a nice hotel," Savitt says. "Now, they're going to Marriotts and Sheratons and lower-quality types of hotels."

Those trends are being felt throughout the travel business this holiday weekend. Airlines say they expect about a 3 percent decline in passengers compared with last Labor Day, and AAA predicts that overall travel will decline more than 13 percent.

Still, not all the news is bad for the tourism industry. AAA Carolinas says despite the expected declines from last year, Labor Day weekend will still be busier than Memorial Day was this spring. While Memorial Day is usually a busier travel weekend, Labor Day this year is expected to attract about 12 percent more travelers.

"That kind of shows there might be a touch more consumer optimism, and people just want to get away for the last long weekend of the summer," says AAA spokesman Tom Crosby.

Crosby says travelers likely will find lower prices than last year. The cost of gasoline, for instance, is down about a dollar a gallon; the current national average price for regular is about $2.60 a gallon.

Meanwhile, the Web site Travelocity reports that airfares are at their lowest level of the summer, and hotel prices have dropped sharply from last Labor Day.

"Overall, hotel rates are down 15 percent from last Labor Day," says Travelocity senior editor Genevieve Shaw Brown. "In certain cities, they're down even more than that."

Travelocity expects airfares to start rising again this fall as airlines continue to cut back their flight schedules. And that may play a role in determining how many people will travel over this year's Thanksgiving holiday, typically the busiest travel weekend of the year.

Crosby, the AAA spokesman, says the number of people who take Thanksgiving trips will provide a good read on how optimistic American families are about the economy.