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Labor Day travelers to spend $13.5 billion, up 2% from last year

Labor Day travelers to spend $13.5 billion, up 2% from last year
Haley Nelson, 3, and her father, Ryan Nelson, of Whittier, play in the sand at Huntington State Beach during Labor Day weekend in 2013. U.S. travelers are expected to spend $13.5 billion during this holiday weekend. (Francine Orr / Los Angeles Times)

Restaurants, gas stations, hotels and other tourism businesses should have a profitable Labor Day weekend, as U.S. travelers are expected to spend an estimated $13.5 billion during the end-of-summer holiday, a 2% increase over the previous Labor Day weekend.

An estimated 35.5 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles for the holiday weekend, with each traveler forecast to spend an average of $380, according to an estimate by the U.S. Travel Assn., the trade group for the nation's travel industry.

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The number of travelers expected to hit the roads or take to the skies nationwide is 1% higher than in 2014, according to the AAA.

One likely reason for the increase in total travelers and spending is the drop in the cost of gasoline.

Across the country, most drivers will be pay $2.45 per gallon of regular gasoline, the lowest gas prices for Labor Day weekend since 2004, when a gallon sold for $1.85.

In California, the average price for a gallon of regular gasoline is the expected to be lowest for the holiday since 2010, when the average was $3.08, Energy Department records show  The state average is now $3.33 a gallon, according to the Auto Club of Southern California.

Despite the higher holiday spending numbers, the U.S. Travel Assn. complains that the nation is not investing enough to maintain roads and airports.

The group's survey finds that the poor condition of roads and airports will keep 4.1 million potential travelers at home this holiday weekend, costing an estimated $1.4 billion in spending.

"The lack of a long-term strategy for our highways and air travel system has created the perception for many that they're better off staying home," said Roger Dow, president and chief executive of the U.S. Travel Assn.

To read more about travel, tourism and the airline industry, follow me on Twitter at @hugomartin.

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