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Area Businesses Won't Benefit From Labor Day Travel

Nearly 5 million people from New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania are expected to travel 50 miles or more this Labor Day weekend for their last hurrahs of summer, according to AAA.

That’s a 0.6 percent increase from last year, according to AAA spokeswoman Teresa Adams. She said people are trying to squeeze the last drops of summer out of the holiday weekend.

“The school year’s starting, the weather is beautiful,” she said, “[and] we have an opportunity to get out there one last time before the winter and the snow.”

But Labor Day weekend doesn’t mean much for businesses in Ohiopyle State Park.

Eric Martin is the owner of Wilderness Voyageurs in Ohiopyle, the oldest whitewater rafting company on the east coast. He said he’s lost about 20 percent of his August business in the last few years thanks to school start dates.

“The creep in the school year has effectively made Ohiopyle a ghost town the last two weeks of August,” Martin said, “where 15 — 20 years ago, even midweek, we were still fairly busy right up until Labor Day.”

Last year, the majority of public schools in 10 states, including Arizona, Tennessee and Utah, started classes before August 15, according to CNN. But schools in the northeastern states haven’t seen much change.

According to AAA, lower gas prices could also lead to an increase in travel over the holiday. The average price across the country is $3.44 per gallon compared to $3.59 on Labor Day last year.

But according to General Manager Jim Greenbaum, it won’t make a difference for White Water Adventures, a rafting company in Ohiopyle.

“With school starting so early, a lot of our guides are school teachers and they’ve been back to school for almost three weeks now,” he said. “And that has stymied us somewhat. The Labor Day weekend in itself is fairly nonexistent.”

Martin said school start dates are also affecting his staffing at Wilderness Voyageurs.

“We do see quite an exodus because the same things happen with colleges,” he said. “They have moved up their return dates and that has really impacted us in trying to scrape together the staff for the last couple weekends of the summer,” he said.

Martin and Greenbaum both said the little business they do get this time of the year, tends to come at the last minute.

“We get a lot of calls from folks going, ‘hey, I haven’t made my reservations yet, but you probably don’t have any space left,’” Martin said. “Yes, we do have space, because a lot of people are like you and kind of assumed we were full and that’s kind of how it goes.”

State Representative Jerry Stern (R-Blair) has unsuccessfully pushed legislation in the past which would delay the start of the school year until after Labor Day.

Nearly 35 million Americans are expected to travel this weekend—the highest volume for the holiday since 2008, according to AAA.

The Erie, PA native has been a fellow in the WESA news department since May 2013. Having earned a bachelor's degree in print journalism from Duquesne University, he is now pursuing an M.A. in multi-media management. Michael describes his career aspiration as "I want to do it all in journalism."