UT Tyler professor: Summer travel still likely, but closer destinations may compensate for high gas prices | News

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Record-breaking gas prices are not likely to stop summer travel, as Americans yearn to take vacations after the COVID-19 pandemic limited normal activities.

When asked about inflation’s effect on travel plans, 70% of polled consumers said their summer travel plans have been affected by high gas prices, which is an increase of 24% over 2021. The majority, 65%, are still taking one or two road trips, according to a recent survey conducted by GasBuddy.

However, travelers may pick destinations closer to home. Traveling shorter distances is a way travelers will likely compensate for the inflated gas prices while still taking their desired vacation, a local professor said.

“It’s not that people have stopped traveling yet, it’s that they’ve reduced how far they’re willing to travel to help reduce fuel cost,” said Harold Doty, professor of management at The University of Texas at Tyler.

The national average price of gas in the U.S. surpassed $5 per gallon Thursday for the first time ever, according to GasBuddy. Regular unleaded gas was averaging about $4.62 in Tyler on Friday. The high cost comes behind months of gas price increases across the country, accelerated by the rise in seasonal demand amidst supply constraints due to the pandemic.

Some residents in Tyler believe high gas prices are taking a toll on summer plans.

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

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

“It’s affecting everybody’s travel plans,” Young said.

Shayan Gajragozou was getting gas in Tyler earlier this week and said he is unhappy about the expensive prices.

“I just moved to Tyler so I’ve been driving a lot,” Gajragozou said. “I used to drive to Austin, Dallas, and I’m from Houston. Now, I’ve been a little bit more particular of where I want to travel.”

Doty said because of built-up anticipation for travel after the pandemic, travel was expected to increase substantially this summer.

“We’ll probably see more travel than we did the last two summers simply 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 for this summer,” Doty said.

With time, high gas prices will likely begin to reduce travel, Doty said, which will hopefully slow the increase of prices due to lesser demand.

Gas prices aren’t the only factor Americans are considering as they make summer travel plans. Airfare is up 38% when compared to last May and hotels and lodging are up 22%, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s Travel Price Index in May.

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

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

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

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

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

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

“It feels like you’re having a full on vacation without all of the expensive travel,” Fourniquet said.

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

For families, Fourniquet recommends RV and cabin resort Jellystone Park at Whispering Pines. Families can enjoy a waterpark, themed activities, hay rides, crafts and more. According to Fourniquet, the Jellystone Park at 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 you can go out and have fun.

“Make a list of places that you haven’t been to 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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