A busy travel holiday is just ahead, but industry experts say the number of travelers will be down about 2.5% across the state and nation compared to Labor Day weekend last year. Gene LaDoucer, spokeman for Triple-A-Iowa, says several factors play into the estimate.

LaDoucer says, “Largely, it’s a mixed economic outlook, consumer uncertainty and recent downturns that are effecting discretionary income and are forcing people, particularly in the lower-income levels, to stay closer to home or at home.” A survey finds airfares are up 13-percent compared to last year.

Gasoline prices in Iowa are now averaging $3.61 a gallon. He says on Labor Day weekend of 2010, gas prices were exactly one dollar cheaper. “Gas prices are up about 30% from where they were at this time last year,” LaDoucer says. “People are telling us that the higher prices aren’t necessarily going to keep them from traveling. What it is going to do, however, it’s going to keep them closer to home. They’re going to find different ways to cut back to make up that increased expense.”

He says hotels, restaurants and attractions in Iowa may actually benefit from the reduced travel prediction. “If you can cater to the audience that’s in your particular area, you could do quite well,” LaDoucer says. “Because of the outdoor activities that are prevalent in the Midwest, there’s a lot of things people can go out and enjoy for one last hurrah for the end of the summer travel season.”

He notes, travel nationwide may be down even more than forecast as communities on the East Coast recover from damage caused by Hurricane Irene.