More than 1.85 million Southern Californians are expected to travel over… (Mark Boster, Los Angeles…)
Despite higher airfares and gasoline prices, Southern Californians plan to travel in big numbers for the upcoming Labor Day weekend, marking 12 months of expected travel increases on holidays, according to the Auto Club of Southern California.
"Given we are now almost a solid year of projected increases in travel, we see this as a sign that consumers are either tired of holding off on travel or are feeling a little better about economic conditions," said Auto Club spokeswoman Marie Montgomery.
About 2.35 million Southland residents are expected to travel over the Labor Day weekend, according to a forecast released by the Auto Club. That would mark a 3.4% increase over the forecast by the group for the same holiday period last year.
The Auto Club forecasts are done by IHS Global Insight, a Boston economic research and consulting firm. The company typically conducts research to confirm the accuracy of its forecasts but does not release those findings until about a year later.
Auto Club representatives said the forecasts usually turn out to be close to accurate.
The projected increase in Labor Day travel follows a forecast for a 5.2% jump in travel for the Fourth of July holiday and a 1.6% increase in travel for Memorial Day weekend. The Auto Club also predicted a 2% rise for spring break, even though it is not an official holiday.
In some cases, increases came despite gasoline prices that often jumped right before the holidays.
In the weeks leading up to the traditional start of spring break, the price of a gallon of regular gas increased 56 cents, from $3.82 on Feb. 9 to $4.38 on March 8.
Although gasoline prices in Southern California have remained flat for the last week or so, the prices are expected to be the highest for any Labor Day, with the average price for a gallon of regular above $4. The previous record average price during Labor Day weekend was in 2008, when motorists paid $3.80 to $3.90, according to the Auto Club.
Travelers are getting no break from the nation's largest airlines, which adopted a $10 hike last week on round-trip flights under 500 miles. The hike marked the fifth raise adopted by all of the country's biggest airlines this year.
Still, about 306,000 Southern Californians are forecast to travel by plane over the weekend, a 4.1% increase over last year, according to the Auto Club. More than 1.85 million Southern Californians are expected to drive, an increase of 3.6% over last year.
"I think people are just exhausted about all the negative, negative economy talk," said Roger Dow, president of the U.S. Travel Assn., the nation's largest trade group for the travel industry. "I think people are saying, 'We want to get away.' "
The most popular destinations for Southern Californians, according to the Auto Club, will be San Diego, Las Vegas, the Central Coast, San Francisco and the Grand Canyon.