Will gas gouge tourism?

High prices haven't halted visitors — yet

Posted: Sunday, May 08, 2005


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  Yesner said he has considered whether it is cheaper to drive or to get a hotel before leaving Anchorage with his RV. Photo by M. Scott Moon

David Yesner fuels his motor home in Soldotna Saturday before returning home to Anchorage during a weekend trip to Homer. "It was $100 even to fill up in Anchorage," he said as he put 31 gallons in his tank. He said he gets about eight or nine miles to the gallon.

AP Photo/Peninsula Clarion, M. S

As Ray and Dawn Toomey, from Brisbane, Australia, travel around Alaska in a motor home, they suspect, all told, they may pay up to $700 extra to fuel the vehicle they have been driving around the state since February.

Alaska tourism experts say their research has not shown that the rise in gasoline prices will hurt tourists' summer travel plans to the Kenai Peninsula, but if prices continue to rise, it may.

"If you're going to do it, you're going to do it," said Dawn Toomey.

While they acknowledge the high fuel prices will dig into their wallet, the Toomeys said it has not affected their travel plans while in Alaska.

Ron Peck, president and chief operating officer of the Alaska Travel Industry Association, said many tourists either fly to Anchorage and drive to the peninsula or they drive the Alaska Highway. Peck said of the 12 states where most of the RV traffic to Alaska comes from, three quarters have higher gasoline prices than Alaska.

For many travelers, "this is a lifetime dream," said Dave Worrell, communications director for ATIA.

A couple cents rise in gasoline prices will probably not make a difference, Worrell said, adding that many people plan their trip to Alaska months in advance.


Yesner said he has considered whether it is cheaper to drive or to get a hotel before leaving Anchorage with his RV.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Citing studies done by AAA, an automobile association, Peck said between $2.50 and $3.00 per gallon of gasoline is a price that may start affecting people's desire to travel.

The AAA Fuel Gauge Report said that the national average for regular gasoline Thursday was $2.21. The statewide average in Alaska on the same day was $2.35.

"There may be some concern on our part," Peck said, referring to the impacts of gasoline prices continuing to rise.

Shanon Hamrick, incoming executive director for the Kenai Peninsula Tourism and Marketing Council, said in her four years in the tourism industry on the peninsula, this is the first year she has had people call and ask what gasoline prices are locally. But nobody has canceled their trip because of it, Hamrick said.

"I'm not worried about it for this summer," she said. "If it keeps rising, of course it's going to affect us."

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