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Labor Day travel numbers expected to drop
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Below are AAA’s top five vacation spots for Kansas travelers during the Labor Day holiday weekend:
1. Branson, Mo.
2. Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Black Hills in South Dakota
3. Kansas City, Kan. and Mo.
4. Memphis, Tenn.
5. Oklahoma City, Okla.

Due to lingering concerns about the economy, the number of Americans expected to travel during summer’s last gasp this weekend is down from the 2010 Labor Day travel period, the American Automobile Association reports. The same holds true for Kansas and the other states in AAA’s West North Central Region.
The association projects approximately 31.5 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more over the holiday, a 2.4 percent decline from the 32.3 million who traveled in 2010. This small decrease is being attributed to recent economic uncertainty and increasing airfare. 
Of that 31.5 million, 2.56 million will be from Kansas, along with Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota and South Dakota. That is a 2.5 percent drop over last year, according to the AAA.
“AAA is projecting a decrease in the number of Labor Day travelers as some Americans react to recent economic uncertainty and increasing air fares,” said Glen MacDonell, director, AAA Travel Services. “While automobile travel is expected to increase slightly, if recent declines in gasoline prices continue through Labor Day, we could see an increase in last-minute holiday weekend travel.”
The decrease in expected travelers is a result of a mixed economic outlook, consumer uncertainty, and recent downturns in factors that affect discretionary income, which really hits the travel and tourism industry, MacDonell said. Real disposable income is up just 1.3 percent, which is being offset by the travel price index rising 6.7 percent since last year, due primarily to rising transportation costs. The housing market remains depressed, with new and existing home prices down 2.4 percent and 3.4 percent, respectively.
Still, “the Labor Day weekend is an opportunity for families to head to favorite vacation spots one last time before the busy fall season begins,” said Jim Hanni, executive vice president for public and government affairs at AAA. “AAA offices are busy helping families make travel plans to hit the open road and the skies over the holiday weekend.”
Additional information regarding Labor Day holiday travel includes:
• 27.3 million Americans are expected to drive to holiday destinations, an increase of 0.5 percent. In the Kansas region, the number is 2.3 million.
• About 2.5 million travelers will fly during the holiday weekend, down slightly by 1.9 percent from last year. Regionally, 190,000 will travel by air.
• Average spending is expected to be $702, approximately $5 more than last year’s average of $697;
• Distance traveled over the upcoming holiday weekend is expected to average 608 miles, down from 635 miles in 2010.
• Airfare over the holiday weekend is expected to increase 13 percent from last year with the lowest round-trip airfare averaging $202. However, rental car rates have dropped 7 percent.
• Hotel rates in better facilities are also expected to increase this year, up 6-8 percent.
AAA has been reporting on holiday travel trends for more than two decades. The complete AAA / IHS Global Insight 2011 Labor Day holiday forecast can be found at The Labor Day holiday period is defined as Thursday, Sept. 1-Monday, Sept. 5.