The Automobile Association of America projects that when all the counting is done, gas prices will have caused 0.9% fewer Americans to travel for Memorial Day weekend.
Still, that means nearly 31.7 million Americans (83% of all holiday travelers) probably got behind the wheel for the long holiday. And state and regional tourism boards are pulling out all the stops to make sure they get their share of those travelers.
Maine, for example--a big driving destination for all the Northeastern states--is intensifying its marketing efforts in Canada, especially the New Brunswick region. A campaign urges consumers to take a "two-nation vacation." And from late June through August, it will also run its most intense "Stay-cation" promotion ever, urging native Mainers to get out and vacation in their own state. "We're cautiously optimistic," says Patricia Eltman, director of the Maine Office of Tourism.
And the Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism is also targeting locals, describing the state's many tourism options, from Cape Cod and Nantucket to the Berkshire Mountains. In fact, its ads brag: "There's so much to do in Massachusetts, we can run a new TV commercial every day."
So far, there are some signs that these efforts are working. For example, while many speculated that gas prices would especially zap camper traffic, "Maine's campgrounds are very busy this weekend," says Rick Abare, executive director of Maine Campground Association. "It's not that the people who already own a camper and a pickup are going to let it sit in the yard, unused. They may not drive as far, and may select a campground that's 100 miles away, not 200, but they're not going to stay home so they can save $20 on gas."
Nor are they likely to use other modes of travel. AAA estimates about 4.35 million said they had flight plans for the weekend, a decrease of 0.5% from the year earlier. And only about 1.8 million intend to travel by train, bus or other mode of transportation.
"Traditionally, Memorial Day travel has been big on beach destinations," says an Amtrak spokesperson, areas not served by many trains. "But we've been seeing our ridership go up steadily for several reasons," he says. "Gas prices are just part of it, but consumers are also looking to avoid congested highways, and the long check-in lines at the airports."
But it too is intensifying marketing efforts for summer travel. Next month, he says Amtrak will launch a special promotion for its Auto Train, which runs from Virginia to Florida, allowing kids 2 to 15 to ride free.