By Johnny Jackson
Experts are expecting fewer travelers this upcoming Labor Day weekend.
Nationwide, about 39 million people are projected to travel at least 50 miles from home, according to AAA Auto Club South. Of those, 84 percent are expected to travel by automobile.
AAA officials anticipate a nationwide decrease of 13.3 percent in Labor Day travel, compared to 2008. Travel is expected to decrease by nearly a quarter - 22 percent - in Southeastern states like Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.
Despite the decrease in travel, this Labor Day weekend is projected to be the third busiest of the decade, said AAA Auto Club South Spokesman Gregg Laskoski.
Laskoski added, however, that the sharp decrease in travel across the Southeast is reflected in the fact that most public schools in the region will start their school years before Sept. 7.
Leading up to the Labor Day weekend, there remains some uncertainties in gas prices, he continued. Gas prices are mounting a return to highs experienced earlier this summer.
"Wholesale prices increased in most markets at the end of last week, and unless they drop, retail prices tend to reflect the direction of wholesale prices," said Laskoski.
The national average for regular unleaded gas, according to AAA's Daily Fuel Gauge Report, was $2.62 on Wednesday, up 12 cents over the past month. The average was up 10 cents for Georgia, over the same period, at $2.46.
According to Laskoski, the Dow Jones Index shot up by 155 points on Aug. 21, when crude oil closed at its highest price of 2009 at $73.89 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange (NYMEX). The price of crude oil closed $6.38 per barrel higher than the week prior.
"Coming off of a week that closed with the highest price for crude oil since last October suggests an up-tick for retail gasoline prices," he said. "Whether the increase in crude oil will translate into an increase at the gas pump remains uncertain."
Brenda Corbin, travel agent and office manager of Duluth Travel in Duluth, Ga., said the economy may continue to hamper travel.
"I think the economy is going to hold everyone back," Corbin said. "From the end of August to the first of January, travel is typically slow anyway. This is our slower period, and I don't see a lot of people doing a lot of traveling on Labor Day. If it is, it would be short distances."