RICHMOND, Va. — Despite increasing inflation and high gas prices, travel experts in the Richmond area expect a busy summer travel season and the region’s tourism organization is hoping to attract out of town visitors with a new ad campaign.
AAA Mid-Atlantic said a recent survey it conducted found 61% of Virginia residents are planning to take a trip of 50 miles or more this summer, while 40% are planning more than one trip.
“I think a lot of that hints at the pent up demand over the past two years, with all of the COVID interruptions, they want to get back to those vacations,” said spokesperson Morgan Dean. “We also asked them what kind of a factor gas prices were in all of that. Flat out, straight up about 40% said gas prices weren’t even a factor in their planning.”
However, he added for those who said they are not traveling this summer, nearly 50% said gas prices were a factor. As of Thursday, the average price for a gallon of regular gas in Virginia was tied for the all-time high at $4.25
Dean added that 15% of respondents that were planning to travel said they were adjust their trip budgets to account for higher gas prices and their agents were getting questions about what would be the cheapest way to travel.
“Our travel advisors are happy to compare what it looks like, how much it would cost you to get to southern Florida if you drive. How much it’ll cost you to fly there,” said Dean. “Of course, there are other elements that come into there. What are you going to do when you get to Florida? Are you going to have to get a rental car? Because you have to factor all of that in there. And that…could be a bust on flying down there if you do need to have a car. But, if you’re going to a resort that’s got a shuttle to get you back and forth from the airport, it’s all inclusive, you’re not planning a lot of excursions…you might be in good shape and able to fly over driving.”
Dean said another element their survey found that some people were considering shorter trips because of gas prices — something noted in a survey done by Longwoods International and the reason behind a new ad campaign from Richmond Region Tourism (RRT).
The campaign titled “Get Here on a Tank of Gas or Less.”
“More than half the [U.S.] population is within a day’s drive,” said RRT CEO Jack Berry. “Our biggest feeder market is Washington, D.C. Our fifth biggest feeder market is New York City. Raleigh is third. So, what happens is that we’re a perfect destination for a tank of gas. Come and visit.”
Berry said the ads will play up and down the I-95 corridor.
“Our numbers are great, the geography is perfect. People…do not want to do a staycation they want to get out of the house. And we’re the perfect destination for that,” added Berry.
Berry said that tourism in the region had already started to recover from the pandemic in 2021. He said record occupancy rates were set from July to January 2022, with most of that coming from leisure travel as business travel was still low.
What we see now is business travel starting to return,” said Berry. “Businesses couldn’t travel because they weren’t working in the offices. Now, they’re coming back to their offices in every destination. Then the corporation’s say ‘Well, now you can start to travel.’ So, coming this summer, I think it’s going to be a kind of a combination of ‘let’s not go too far’ as well as the business travel returning. So, I dare say — I don’t want to be too superstitious — but July, August, September should be boom months for us.”
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