May 27—ANDERSON — Two years ago, it was the COVID-19 pandemic that scuttled the summer travel plans of thousands of Hoosiers.
Now, it's gas prices and inflation, according to a recent survey commissioned by the American Hotel & Lodging Association.
Even though the Memorial Day weekend marks the traditional start of summer travel season, Americans are rethinking those plans in a variety of ways.
The AHLA survey found that, although nearly seven in 10 Americans say they're likely to travel this summer, majorities report they're likely to take fewer leisure trips (57%) and shorter trips (54%) due to current gas prices. More than three in four (82%) say gas prices will be at least part of their thinking when it comes to decisions on travel.
"You think about how gas prices have increased over the last year, we're getting near the heart of travel time," said Mark Thacker, executive director of the Anderson-Madison County Visitors Bureau. "It's going to hit people in the pocket."
Truncated or cancelled vacation plans likely mean decreased bookings at hotels and less money spent at restaurants and other tourist destinations — a possibility that concerns industry officials.
"Just as COVID's negative impact on travel is starting to wane, a new set of challenges is emerging in the form of historic inflation and record high gas prices," said Chip Rogers, president and CEO of AHLA. "We will be keeping a close eye on these issues and urging Congress and the administration to do the same in order to help ensure they don't negatively impact hotels' continued pandemic recovery."
Thacker said he hasn't heard from many local lodging places about trends in bookings, but he noted that one local hotel manager has mentioned that "walk-in" stays — which often happen when people make last-minute decisions to take trips — are down significantly from last year.
"People are probably going to stay closer to home this summer and be more conscientious of where their money is going," he said.
As fuel prices continue to rise, he said, their impact on the local tourism industry will be inevitable.
"We're starting to get back to our peak season, but we're not quite to the same threshold as we were last year," he said. "You know they've got to be grumbling about it, because people are bound to reduce the duration or the number of their trips overall."
Follow Andy Knight on Twitter @Andrew_J_Knight, or call 765-640-4809.