Gas prices cause people to vacation closer to homeby Ambar Espinoza, Minnesota Public Radio
Minnesota's tourism industry doesn't appear to be taking a hit from $4 a gallon gas.
Many resorts and bed and breakfasts say that while they may not be getting as many out of state visitors, they're getting a steady stream of business from Minnesota vacationers.
Stillwater, Minn. — Teary O'Hara is giving a couple a tour of the James Mulvey Inn, a bed and breakfast in Stillwater, Minn., in the eastern Twin Cities metro. This Victorian house dates back to the 1880s.
O'Hara shares a little history about the garden with his guests.
"And our oak tree over here in the corner has grown into the fence. It's our proof that the fence around the property is original," O'Hara told the guests.
O'Hara is noticing some changes in the vacationers staying at the Inn this summer.
"This year I've seen a big decrease in the out of state. We still get a lot of people from Iowa and Wisconsin, but I'm not seeing the far-reaching as much as I used to," said O'Hara.
He thinks that's because of the rising cost of fuel.
"I'd say lately the bulk has been from the Twin Cities, because we're so close by, and you can still afford the rooms and the gas is minor from the Cities," said O'Hara. "It's only 15-20 minutes. So a quarter tank of gas, and you're really out of the Twin Cities."
Some of O'Hara's guests agree that it's much cheaper to vacation closer to home.
The cost of gas was a big factor for Tom Fangmeier when he was making vacation plans with his wife Laurie.
"Last year, we went to the the Black Hills, and due to gas prices, we are not going to go that far. We're going to vacation in southern Minnesota. Yeah, we're not going to leave the state, whereas ordinarily, we would," said Fangmeier.
The Fangmeiers are from Morris, Minn., and they're staying at the James Mulvey Inn for a short anniversary getaway. They say their largest bill is always gas when they're on vacation, so next week, they'll save some money, compared to other years, by going to Lanesboro.
Other innkeepers in Stillwater say business is still good, even though gas prices are high and the economy is sluggish.
A few of them say they aren't seeing any changes so far, because their guests tend to be more local anyway, while most say they're getting more people from the Twin Cities.
"People are busy and stressed and they need a getaway," said Rita Graybill, owner of the Elephant Walk Bed and Breakfast.
"And so they are still coming to a bed and breakfast. And Stillwater is a little beautiful town, so we're still attracting, more than our share, which is great," Graybill said.
Graybill says she's getting some new customers affected by the high cost of fuel, which is making it more expensive to drive and fly.
"Before we had some fellows come that usually go to Europe... They came and stayed three or four nights; I can't recall. The dollar is low and airline tickets are high, so I think people are staying closer to home now," said Graybill.
Other innkeepers say people are starting to book shorter, last-minute vacation trips during the weekdays to take advantage of lower rates.
The state's tourism office says it's too soon to tell whether local tourism dollars are up this summer. A spokesperson at Explore Minnesota says the office has anecdotal information from lodging businesses and others in the tourism industry who say more people are vacationing locally.