Nearly 35 million Americans are projected to journey more than 50 miles or more from home during the Labor Day holiday weekend, the highest volume for the last major summertime holiday since 2008.
Bolstered by cheaper gas and a better economy, AAA forecasts that the number of travelers this weekend will rise 1.3 percent over last year.
The rise in travel should help Chattanooga's $1 billlion-year tourism industry, which has already enjoyed the best summer since before the Great Recession.
Downtown hotel revenues in Chattanooga last month were 11 percent above last year and favorable weather and economic conditions should continue to upturn into the fall, according to the head of Chattanooga's tourism agency.
"July hotel revenues in Hamilton County were the highest in history and some area attractions are reporting the best July this year they have seen since 2007," said Bob Doak, president of the Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau. "People seem more confident about the economy and there may be a pent up demand from previous years by travelers eager to get out and see the country."
AAA Chief Operating Officer Marshall L. Doney said consumer spending continues to outpace disposable income, "indicating that Americans are comfortable using their credit cards to take one last summer vacation this year."
Holiday commuters this weekend will enjoy cheaper gas prices than a year ago. GasBuddy.com, the internet site that tracks fuel prices, said gas prices this Labor Day weekend are the lowest in four years.
"We expect to see stable gasoline pices from now through mid-September," said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst for GasBuddy. "By Veterans Day, we anticipate that much of the country could be looking at average prices below $3.25 a gallon with thousands of stations under $3 a gallon."
AAA's fuel gauge report said the average price of a gallon of regular gas in Chattanooga on Thursday was just under $3.18 a gallon. Although prices at the pump are up 8 cents a gallon in the past week they remain 13 cents per gallon below a year ago.
Dave Flessner is the business editor for the Times Free Press. A journalist for 35 years, Dave has been business editor and projects editor for the Chattanooga Times Free Press, city editor for The Chattanooga Times, business and county reporter for the Chattanooga Times, correspondent for the Lansing State Journal and Ingham County News in Michigan, staff writer for the Hastings Daily Tribune in Nebraska, and news director for WCBN-FM in Michigan. Dave, a native ...