TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — With gas prices inching closer and closer to the $5 per gallon mark in the Tampa Bay area, one might think the tourism industry in Florida might suffer this summer travel season. Those in the know, however, say that isn’t so.
Dana Young, the CEO of Visit Florida, and Carol Dover, the CEO of the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, both spoke in Sarasota on Monday at The Argus Foundation’s “Meet the Minds: The State of Florida Tourism. WFLA caught up with both prior to the event.
Young says despite the price at the pump at an all time high, tourism in Florida is thriving.
“The demand is so high that we have actually not seen a drop in tourism from the rise in inflation and gas prices,” said Young. “What we’re seeing is a lot more family road trips. Plane tickets are getting more expensive so a lot more people are electing to drive. So they may take road trips and take their vacations within the state of Florida.”
Dover has similar thoughts. She says there are so many destinations within the state, the high gas prices are convincing Floridians to explore and vacation in their backyards.
“We are seeing a lot of in-state travel, which is wonderful,” said Dover. “It’s a lot cheaper to go within your state than it is outside of your state for vacation.”
AAA Auto Club recently released a study that indicates Floridians are more comfortable traveling now than any time since the pandemic began.
“We’re hearing from travelers who are eager to return to a sense of normalcy and it appears that time is finally here,” Vice President of Travel Debbie Haas said. “Travel bookings are surging, with people who are tired of being home, are ready to explore new destinations and reconnect with family and friends.”
The study went on to reveal that, although inflation is driving up costs, many Floridians are not canceling their trips. AAA says 26% of locals are taking road trips instead of flying and some say they plan to stay in cheaper accommodations to save money.
Dover says while the numbers look good now, the rising prices at the pump and everywhere else are definitely a cause for concern.
“Clearly we are concerned,” said Dover. “Gas prices today are up 43.3%. Airlines are up 33%, so that’s giving us a bit of concern. But, I believe one thing that we’ve done well is also reminding Floridians to travel within the state.”