High Gas Prices May Result In Tourism Decline

By KBJR News 1

May 22, 2013 Updated May 22, 2013 at 6:03 PM CST

Duluth, MN (NNCNOW.com) - Minnesotans are now paying among the highest gas prices in the nation.

Those costs have some motorists re–thinking their Memorial weekend holiday travel plans.

As people make plans some federal lawmakers are doing what they can to help alleviate the growing problem.

The long weekend coming up may result in financial consequences for tourism related industries in the Northland.

The high cost of fuel is expected to keep many tourists at home this long weekend.

The recent spike in gas prices could impact travel for the highly anticipated Memorial Day Weekend.

"It just costs more, that's all," Chris Juten, a motorist said.

"They are way too expensive," Kayla Benson, a motorist said.

Thousands of people from across the Northland are expected to travel for friend and family getaways this weekend, but some are thinking twice.

"I'm supposed to go down to the cities this memorial weekend, but I don't know if I am going to do that yet. So, hopefully I can find a way to do that," Benson said.

Kayla Benson says she can't afford to fill up her tank and may stay have to near her home in Duluth.

The recent refinery closures in the Midwest are being blamed for the sudden, dramatic rise in fuel costs.

Senator Al Franken says he's trying to change that for the future.

In a letter to the U.S. Energy Secretary, Franken calls on the Department of Energy to block simultaneous maintenance shutdowns in the future.

"This could have been prevented. DOE used to have a program that was sort of designed to prevent this," Minnesota Senator Al Franken said.

Franken says he's asking DOE officials to reinstate refinery reports that list when they're going to shut down for maintenance.

"It used to coordinate refinery outages. Unfortunately in 2011, that was defunded," Franken said.

He says that could prevent simultaneous shutdowns.

Meanwhile Explore Minnesota spokespeople say the increases in gas prices will encourage stay–cations which will help the regional economy.

"What we have found when the gas prices go up, we have almost a positive impact in Minnesota, especially North East Minnesota. People want to stay closer to home and they are not taking the longer trips, but there is a lot of pent up demand for travel," Tim Campbell, an Explore Minnesota director, said.

"You just got to suck it up. It's the annual trip we go on every year, so not much you can do about it," Juten said.

Explore Minnesota says they're more concerned about the weather than gas prices, but they're confident temperatures will warm up for the weekend.

Justin Reis, NNC.
jreis@kbjr.com