Grand Rapids - With gas prices expected to hover around the three dollar mark again this summer, Michigan's travel industry is bracing for another tough travel season.
"Higher gas prices is not the greatest for tourism.". Rick Hert is executive director of the West Michigan Tourist Association. He says the latest study from Travel Michigan shows that once gas prices hit $3.00 a gallon vacationers are more likely to stay within two hours of home, "What we are seeing is that the further you go north in West Michigan, that we have a threshold on those gas prices and once they start getting close to $3.00 we start seeing our numbers go down."
Hert says places north of Muskegon like Cadillac and the Upper Peninsula are expected to suffer like they did last summer, while others like Grand Haven should prepare for another busy season.
Connie Blessman with the Harbor House Bed & Breakfast in Grand Haven says she can already tell it will be a good summer, "We are booked, pretty booked June, July, August, so yeah, business is doing fine so far." Blessman says she believes Grand Haven isn't affected by high gas prices, "We have cities around us that aren't real far and I think people like from Grand Rapids and Chicago come in to see us and it's not that far and the gas prices probably don't affect them as much because you're not driving as far."
And that's the same opinion as The Surf Shop manager Betsy Brye, "A lot of times people from Indiana will come up but maybe not as much from there but from the area around Grand Rapids I think they'll still come." And she's probably right since Grand Haven state park is almost completely booked for the summer.
Tourism is Michigan's second biggest industry bringing in about $18 billion dollars a year and this year the state hopes to bring in even more because it's the first time schools will be required to start after Labor Day, extending the summer travel season by about two weeks.