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High gas prices aren’t hurting tourism May 28, 2008

Posted by Ron Warnick in Attractions, Road trips.

Here’s something to chew on from the Wayneville (Mo.) Daily Guide:

High gas prices don’t seem to be hurting Pulaski County tourism, according to Tourism Bureau Executive Director Andy Thiem, and may even help local venues as vacationers choose to stay closer to home.

Speaking at Thursday evening’s meeting of the Pulaski County Tourism Board, Thiem said national surveys indicate most Americans won’t give up their summer vacations regardless of gas prices.

The tourism bureau’s primary revenue source is a transient guest tax levied on hotel and motel visitors, and that revenue stream is running about $8,000 better than budget for the month of March — the last available revenue report — and $26,000 better than budget for the first quarter. That’s not a large increase, but it does indicate there isn’t a major problem caused by rising gas prices, Thiem said. [...]

“Vacations are a non-negotiable part of contemporary life, even in challenging economic times,” Thiem said, citing the survey results.

Thiem said only 41 percent of those who responded to the survey said their vacation plans would change if gas prices continue to rise, but the greatest percentage of those — 38 percent  — would simply drive a shorter distance for their vacations. About 36 percent say they’ll take fewer trips; 30 percent will spend less on surveys and shopping, and 27 percent would spend less on meals and entertainment.

“Gas continues to be a challenge, we’ll look at that, but right now the indicators are that everybody’s still traveling. They’re alternating where they’re traveling but they are still traveling,” Thiem said.

A prominent Route 66 business owner that I chatted with a few days ago concurred with Thiem’s assessment — that Route 66 travel would be the same or even increase this summer because it would gain more local travelers. The locals won’t be able to burn as much of that higher-priced fuel, so they’ll stick closer to home for vacations and weekend getaways.

Thanks to Thiem, there are solid numbers to support that notion.

Combine that with a weak U.S. dollar that’s spurring more spending by foreign travelers, and you could have a summer in which Route 66 tourism increases, despite the rising cost of oil.

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