MYRTLE BEACH — Travelers will find the lowest Labor Day gas prices since 2010 headed into the long holiday weekend, and Grand Strand beaches are expected to be bustling as revelers aim to squeeze in one last hurrah to summer.
The average gas price in South Carolina is about $3.24 a gallon, down from the summer peak of $3.34 on July 21, according to AAA Carolinas, which released its Labor Day travel forecast Tuesday. The price headed into the Labor Day weekend last year was $3.49; in 2011 it was $3.38, according to AAA Carolinas.
South Carolina has the lowest average gas price in the country, though the Myrtle Beach area has the state’s most expensive price at an average $3.27.
The break at the pumps -- combined with an improving economy and higher consumer confidence -- is expected to fuel more folks to hit the road for the holiday weekend, AAA Carolina says. About 445,200 S.C. residents are expected to travel between Thursday and Monday.
“As the economy has steadily improved in the Carolinas, more families will take advantage of the last holiday weekend of the summer,” David Parsons, president and CEO of AAA Carolinas, said in a news release. “Beyond that, gas prices heading into this weekend are the lowest they’ve been for any Labor Day holiday since 2010.”
Myrtle Beach is among the top spots travelers from the Carolinas are expected to hit, according to AAA Vacations, along with Asheville, N.C.; Charleston, Charlotte and San Francisco.
Lodging occupancy along the Grand Strand is expected to range from 78 percent to 82 percent, in line with the Labor Day crowds a year ago, said Taylor Damonte of Coastal Carolina University’s Center for Resort Tourism. This year, the weather forecast is cooperating for folks wanting a beach getaway: Sun, highs in the mid-80s and only a slight chance of a thunderstorm each day. Tropical storms that can threaten the coast this time of year are so far staying away.
“It looks like the weather is going to be OK,” Damonte said. “This weekend it looks to be clear.”
Fairfield Inn Myrtle Beach North has some rooms still available, but those are likely to be snapped up by the time the long weekend arrives, the hotel’s Crystal Roberts said. The 86-room hotel typically sells out for Labor Day weekend, she said.
“It’s still a little bit early,” she said Tuesday.
For those hitting the roads, Friday and Monday are expected to be the busiest travel days. But Tuesday might also be busier than usual, with 42 percent of travelers expected to head home then, AAA Carolinas said.
Grand Strand tourism will start easing up post-Labor Day, with businesses shedding summer workers and airlines scaling back flights to meet the lighter shoulder season demand.
“This is the last big one,” Damonte said.
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