Professor UT Tyler: Summer travel still likely, but closer destinations may offset high gas prices

Record gasoline prices are unlikely to halt summer travel as Americans yearn to take a vacation after the COVID-19 pandemic limited normal activities.

Asked about the effect of inflation on travel plans, 70% of consumers surveyed said their summer travel plans had been affected by high gas prices, a 24% increase from to 2021. The majority, 65%, still take one or two travel routes, according to a recent survey by GasBuddy.

However, travelers can choose destinations closer to home. Traveling shorter distances is a way for travelers to offset inflated petrol prices while taking the vacation they want, a local professor said.

“It’s not that people have stopped travelling, it’s that they’ve reduced the distance they’re willing to travel to help reduce fuel costs,” said Harold Doty, professor of management at the University of Texas at Tyler.

The average national gasoline price in the United States topped $5 a gallon on Thursday for the first time ever, according to GasBuddy. Regular unleaded gasoline averaged about $4.62 in Tyler on Friday. The high cost comes behind months of gas price increases across the country, accelerated by rising seasonal demand amid supply constraints due to the pandemic.

Some Tyler residents think high gas prices are hurting summer plans.

“We can’t travel a lot because of the high prices,” said gas station customer Jon Mullenax.

Local resident Steven Young said he doesn’t normally travel, but if he wanted to take a trip he couldn’t due to high prices.

“It affects everyone’s travel plans,” Young said.

Shayan Gajragozou was getting gas at Tyler earlier this week and said he was unhappy with the high prices.

“I just moved to Tyler so I’ve been racing a lot,” Gajragozou said. “I used to drive in Austin, Dallas, and I’m from Houston. Now I’ve been a little more specific about where I want to travel.”

Doty said that due to the built-up anticipation for post-pandemic travel, travel is expected to increase significantly this summer.

“We’ll probably see more travel than we’ve done the last two summers just because people couldn’t travel because of COVID, but I’m not sure we’ll see the explosive growth that some of the projections were calling this summer,” Doty said.

Over time, high gasoline prices will likely start to curb travel, Doty said, which will hopefully slow price increases due to lower demand.

Gas prices aren’t the only factor Americans consider when planning their summer trips. Airfares were up 38% from last May and hotels and accommodations were up 22%, according to the US Travel Association’s Travel Price Index in May.

“We are at a very interesting time because until very recently, [prices] don’t seem to have affected travel at all,” Doty said.

Don’t want to travel far? Have a vacation in East Texas

For people looking to plan the summer locally and have a staycation, Visit Tyler Senior Vice President Holli Fourniquet said there are plenty of things to do in the East Texas area. which she doesn’t think people realize.

One of the places recommended by Fourniquet is the Holiday Inn Club Vacations Villages Resort.

“You can go, you can stay, and it doesn’t even feel like Tyler or home, but it’s here in the area,” Fourniquet said.

The resort is on Palestine Lake where you can take a boat, swimming pools, games, theme nights, restaurants and much more.

“It’s like having a complete vacation without all the expensive travel,” Fourniquet said.

Fourniquet also recommends High Hill Farm. The getaway has an infinity pool, outdoor games, outdoor fireplace, hiking trails, golf, chalets and more.

For families, Fourniquet recommends the Jellystone Park RV and cabin complex in Whispering Pines. Families can enjoy a water park, themed activities, hay rides, crafts and more. According to Fourniquet, Jellystone Park in Whispering Pines is consistently listed as one of the franchises top locations and has won several awards within their company.

Fourniquet also added that Tyler and the East Texas area is one of those places where you don’t have to spend a dime and where you can hang out and have fun.

“Make a list of places you haven’t been and just exploring the area makes you feel like you’re on vacation,” she said.

More local activities, places to stay and events can be found at https://visittyler.com/experience-tyler/.

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