UPDATE 1-More Americans to travel this Labor Day weekend -AAA

Tue Aug 21, 2012 10:09pm IST

(Adds Tuesday gasoline prices)

NEW YORK Aug 21 (Reuters) - More American travelers will take to the road this Labor Day weekend as consumer confidence remains intact despite the sluggish economy and high gasoline prices, travel group AAA said on Tuesday.

AAA expects 33 million Americans will either drive or fly over the holiday weekend between Aug. 30 and Sept. 3. This is the largest number of travelers since 2008 and up 2.9 percent from a year earlier.

About 28.2 million motorists will drive to their destinations, a 3.1 percent increase from last year's levels. And 2.55 million will fly to their vacation, up 3.7 percent from a year earlier, AAA added.

(Graphic: link.reuters.com/tak22t )

"In the absence of strong economic growth ... it is an encouraging sign that Americans continue to prioritize travel," Bill Sutherland, vice president of AAA Travel Services said in a statement.

The forecast, based on a survey of 50,000 U.S. households, found that 66 percent of respondents do not expect their current financial situation to have a negative bearing on their Labor Day weekend plans.

Motorists will continue to take a hit at the pump, however. Gasoline sold for an average $3.71 a gallon on Tuesday, 4 percent higher than a year ago. Prices had reached the highest level for Aug. 20 according to AAA's records at $3.72 a gallon on Monday and the group expects costs to remain high over the next few weeks.

Costs at the pump have prompted policymakers to consider a response, with the White House saying a release from the country's Strategic Petroleum Reserve is under consideration. (Reporting by Selam Gebrekidan; Editing by Tim Dobbyn)

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