Economists: Higher gas prices may help Hampton Roads tourism


PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — As temperatures and gas prices rise, economists and travel experts say they don’t anticipate they’ll deter travelers from visiting Hampton Roads.

Not only will high gas prices not really impact tourism, but experts say higher gas prices may encourage more people to travel locally.

Old Dominion University Economics Professor Vinod Agarwal says that travel could really help tourism here in Hampton Roads.

“This may not be bad news for the Hampton Roads tourism market,”  he said.

Agarwal says that could be the mindset for many travelers this year as temperatures start to rise and gas prices do the same.

“If you’re going on a vacation and you want to go on a vacation where you can travel by car, even though gas prices are a little higher, it doesn’t affect your vacation as much as you may think,” he said.

Holly Dalby from the AAA of Tidewater says people are still mixed when it comes to how they’ll travel.

“You have people still being extremely cautious because of COVID, and they’re more comfortable in their own vehicles or getting a rental car and traveling that way,” he said.

People are also willing to go on a plane, but with gas prices high and inflation at record levels, economists say this could push more people to travel locally by car for vacations.

“If the prices stay reasonably close to $4, less than $4 a gallon, that might actually help the tourism market rather than affect it inversely,” said Agarwal.

Agarwal says high gas prices are making people reconsider trips to places south like Myrtle Beach or Florida and pushing more people to come here to places like Virginia Beach.

“You are more likely to attract more visitors within a 300-mile radius, more visitors from close-in markets, than from far-out markets,” he said.

Before hitting the road, make sure you’re doing everything you can to save on gas mileage.

“Make sure your vehicle is well-maintained because that can improve your gas mileage. Making sure your tires are properly inflated. And then the final tip I would have is to watch your speed,” said Dalby.

Experts say this could be another great year for the local tourism industry.



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