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Economic pressures could impact summer travel spending

In Grand Haven, Michigan, the summer travel season is their peak season for visitors, which brings in money critical to the local economy. The attractions there include a lighthouse and pier, along with beaches lining the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.
AAA says the nation is experiencing its highest average gas price ever. According to AAA, there is no state in the country where the average price of a regular gallon of gas is below $4.
Like in many other beach communities, most of the summer visitors to Grand Haven, Michigan drive in, which has become a taller task than usual, given current gas prices.
Some communities that rely on summer visitors are focusing their marketing and advertising efforts on people who live in areas closer to home, who may not want to spend a lot of money on gas to go on vacation.
Posted at 8:43 AM, May 24, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-24 09:34:56-04

GRAND HAVEN, Mich. — For drivers, the pain at the pump is a real pain in the neck.

“When I go to buy gas, it’s awful,” said Deborah Bolden of Indiana.

AAA said the U.S.is experiencing its highest average gas price ever. It’s tough pill to swallow for some.

“Especially when you're on like a fixed budget, too – I’m a college student,” said Ryan Pilkington of Virginia.

Gas is a necessity some can’t do without, but then, when the weather gets warmer, suddenly other things can seem like a necessity, too.

“[We have] the pier and the lighthouse and the beach here,” said Marci Cisneros, executive director of the Grand Haven Convention and Visitors Bureau in Michigan. “We're right on the cusp of our peak season.”

We met Cisneros on a hazy, 80-degree day, at a beach along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan.

“Summer in the Grand Haven area is very special,” she said. “Really, kind of up and down the coast, within our area, are a lot of great beaches to explore.”

Most of their summer visitors drive in, which has become a taller task than usual, given current gas prices.

“I think maybe those long-haul road trips might be revised because of gas prices,” Cisneros said.

With that in mind, she said they are focusing their marketing and advertising efforts on areas closer to home and counting on people who want to get away - but not too far away.

“We'll probably get more in-state travel,” Cisneros said.

However, there’s another issue: how much people are willing to spend once they get there, given that just getting somewhere will cost more.

“Their budget may just limit the amount of expenditures once they get to their destination,” Cisneros said. “Maybe they don't spend that extra $100 a night on the hotel they want or maybe they don't do as much shopping or eating out.”

How that all shakes out in tourist areas across the country this summer remains to be seen.

Cisneros says they still expect growth in visitor numbers between 3% and 5%, compared to last year.

“You know, we can put together the slickest marketing plan. We have an amazing community. We have beautiful natural assets here, but there's so many other factors that can play into that that we don't have control over,” she said. “We’re being optimistic.”

After a pandemic, they hope pent up demand to get out might override anything else.