Tourism in Oklahoma could be boosted by high gas prices

High gas prices, a shattered airline industry and a slumping economy could put a significant damper on many families’ summer travel plans.

However, many in the local travel industry believe these pocketbook issues will benefit Oklahoma tourism as more vacationers choose “home” or “close to home” destinations for vacation trips. summer.

“The trends we’re seeing tell us that,” said Visit OKC President Zac Craig.

Oklahoma is primarily a regional destination, which means most of its visitors come from the border states.

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Historically, most people visiting Oklahoma City for leisure trips have driven from towns and cities just four or five hours away, Craig said.

During the pandemic, Craig said, it “really stretched out to more than eight or nine hours. We’re starting to see a lot of trending cities like Houston or Denver or Kansas City and St. Louis. Many visitors come to the market. that historically we just haven’t seen that kind of reach.”

Oklahoma City’s museums, restaurants, parks, river sports and other attractions attract a family looking to save money while vacationing nearby, Craig said.

Gas Prices Incentivize Changing, Not Canceling, Summer Travel Plans

Despite high costs, Americans are determined to travel this summer, according to the most recent research from Travel Intelligence’s Portrait of American Travelers Summer Edition.

Nearly two in three US travellers, 65%, intend to take a leisure trip in the next six months despite the obstacles present in the current travel environment. The data showed that gas prices will affect travel for almost eight in ten active leisure travellers.

At this point, however, the Americans are not canceling the trips, but modifying them. Almost half, 48%, said they were traveling close to home, 35% said they were cutting back on entertainment and shopping spending, and 30% were cooking meals rather than dining out.

The US Travel Association also reports that travel spending in April increased from a year earlier. Nearly six in 10 US travelers (59%) say rising gas prices will affect their decision to travel in the next six months, the report found.

Some Signs Point to a Prosperous Travel Season for Oklahoma Attractions

And there are more clues that Oklahoma City could see more visitors this summer. Oklahoma City hotel occupancy was 7% higher in May of this year than in May of last year.

The Oklahoma Route 66 Museum in Clinton is a popular tourist stop.

And visits to the Visit OKC website were much higher in May.

“Just in May, we saw the number of visits to the website increase by 60%,” said Craig. “Despite the gasoline prices, there’s still a lot of travel intentions we’re seeing.”

Oklahoma’s many lakes are expected to be as busy as ever this summer.

“I don’t think gas prices are going to drive people away from Grand Lake,” said Jay Cranke, executive director of the Grand Lake Association.

“I can see where the whole state is going to benefit to some degree because of the higher prices, because people are going to stay home and not make that 500 mile trip to the beach or Disneyland.

“People are still spending money. I get it, gas prices have doubled, but I think people are still willing to spend money. People who have some money to spend the are still spending.”

State parks in Oklahoma, which saw record visitor numbers during the pandemic, could experience similar traffic this summer.

“We strongly expect strong summer park attendance based on reservation numbers from June 1 through August 31,” said Jennifer Mullins, director of travel promotion for the Oklahoma Department of Tourism and Recreation.

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Oklahoma State Parks has already booked more than 125,000 reservations this summer, just slightly below last year’s pace of more than 129,000.

Hordes of Texans cross the Red River to sample Oklahoma’s tourist hotspots

One of Oklahoma’s top tourist destinations is southeast Oklahoma in Hochatown. A large number of North Texans use southeast Oklahoma as their playground.

Each weekend, approximately 2,500 cabins in the Hochatown area are booked.

Dian Jordan, rental property owner and unofficial mayor of Hochatown, said high gas prices will mean families will have less money available for recreation, but she doesn’t think that will mean a summer. slower to get to Hochatown.

“I predict the opposite,” she said. “Summer travelers might take fewer vacations. Last year’s cabin visitor might choose a day trip to a nearby Texas state park instead of a weekend in the Oklahoma cabins.

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“The family that previously spent two weeks in Colorado could only book a week in Beavers Bend. We’ve known about these trends for years. Regardless of travelers’ vacation budgets, we always seem to have a full market for cabins. of Hochatown.”

Jordan invested in his first property in Hochatown in 1999.

“I wasn’t making a lot of money, but every year I kept upgrading the cabins,” she said. “Our community has continued to work together to improve and provide a fun experience for tourists.

“This summer will offer more things to do than ever before. We have more restaurants. An outdoor movie park will be opening soon. We are excited to have multiple grocery options. Now multiple stores are offering milk and bread, and everything to make s’mores at the campfire.

Despite high gas prices and a slumping economy, there’s still a strong market for luxury cabin rentals, Jordan said.

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“Most Hochatown vacationers come from metropolitan areas,” she said. “Kids who’ve never seen the stars in the dark sky. They’ve never caught a fish. And they’ve never stayed in a log cabin where they can hear the frogs sing while sitting on the back porch at dusk.

“Sights, sounds and sensations make our ecological rural tourism grow.”

Journalist Ed Godfrey is looking for stories that impact your life. Whether it’s news, outdoors, sports – you name it, it wants to report it. Do you have a story idea? Reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter @EdGodfrey. Support his work and that of other Oklahoman journalists by purchasing a digital subscription today.

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