RALEIGH, N.C. —Travelers looking for a standout summer send-off will find themselves in good company across North Carolina. With longstanding Labor Day festivals and special events leading up to the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, destinations are ready to welcome a stream of Labor Day visitors.
“The weekend will truly end summer on a high note,” said Lynn Minges, the N.C. Commerce Department’s Assistant Secretary of Tourism, Marketing and Global Branding. “With an extra day between coming and going, the travel experience will be richer, and visitors will feel more refreshed when the trip ends.”
The state’s official travel website, VisitNC.com, lists dozens of festive weekend events from the mountains to the coast, including the Mile High Kite Festival at Beech Mountain, the North Carolina Apple Festival in Hendersonville, the Labor Day Food & Wine Festival in Pinehurst, the John Coltrane International Jazz & Blues Festival in High Point, the Lexington Avenue Arts and Fun Festival in Asheville and the Labor Day Music Extravaganza at Bald Head Island.
Charlotte’s big event, the Democratic National Convention, takes place Sept. 4-6. Labor Day visitors and any of the 35,000 convention-goers arriving early can attend the non-partisan kick-off event, CarolinaFest 2012, which unfolds in Uptown Charlotte with former North Carolina resident James Taylor as the headliner.
The American Automobile Association predicts a 2.9 percent increase in Labor Day travel nationwide despite rising gas prices. U.S. Energy Information Administration figures show pump prices in the Lower Atlantic region averaging $3.71 per gallon compared with $3.66 over Labor Day 2011. Even compared with summer 2012’s lowest average price of $3.26, the extra cost at the pump should have little effect on North Carolina travel.
“In our experience, visitors weigh the extra $20 or $25 they’ll spend at the pump against the overall cost of the trip and conclude that North Carolina is a value destination,” Minges said. “Whether traveling as a family, a couple or a group of friends, visitors can find unique experiences within their means.”
Year-to-date reports indicate continued growth for North Carolina tourism after 2011’s record $18.4 billion in spending. According to Smith Travel Research, hotel/motel occupancy was up 3.2 percent over the first seven months of 2011.