Rising Gas Prices Won't Slow Many Tourists

Monterey County – On Memorial Day, car and motorcycle traffic flowed steadily down Cannery Row in Monterey -- giving no sign that gas prices had topped $4.00 a gallon. Teresa Wang and her college friends shared the cost of gas for their 240 mile round trip from San Francisco. And while they thought about the price, they never thought about canceling their plans. "You know long weekends are sort of hard to come by and it's just one of those rare opportunities to hang out with a group of friends," said Wang.

According to a new survey co-authored by the Travel Industry Association, almost 60% of Americans planning summer car trips won't change their travel plans even if gas prices continue to go up. And Kat Burnside with the California Travel and Tourism Commission says the state should fair even better than the national average. "So much of our visitation and tourism is driven by travelers within the state. Overall visitation to California, which in 2006 was 366-million domestic and international visitors, the huge majority - about 84% - are people who live in California who are traveling around California," said Burnside.

Plus California is also seeing an increase in international tourists. Jan Sorenson and her husband are visiting from Queensland, Australia. They stopped in the Carmel Visitors' Center to learn about places to stay. It's their first trip to California and Sorenson says the declining dollar played a big role in their decision to come. In years past when the rate wasn't in her favor, she says traveling to the US was nearly impossible. "It's a great opportunity and it's exciting for us because it's a long way to come. It's a really long way to fly, and if you have to watch every dollar to buy a sandwich or a pie, it's really not as fun," said Sorenson.

And it's even better for Europeans who are getting about $1.50 for each euro. Monta Potter is the CEO of the Carmel Chamber of Commerce. "We're getting a lot of European travelers. The biggest country seems to be Germany in terms of who's going on our web site. But we get a lot of travelers come in for information. It seems like a lot of Europeans like to use visitors' centers and so a lot of them come by; it has definitely increased," said Potter.