Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Will soaring prices keep travellers close to home?

TORONTO -- Most summers, the Powell family hooks their tent trailer to the back of their van at least four times, setting out for camping trips that take the Ottawa residents all over Ontario and as far as Nova Scotia.

This year, forecasts of skyrocketing gasoline prices are threatening to put the brakes on the distances they travel.

"It's not very pleasant, that's for sure," says Debbie Powell, 48, the mother of five sons. "Maybe as opposed to going to three or four places, we might only pick a couple of places and stay a little bit longer."

Industry analysts say that once the summer kicks into high gear, gasoline could cost as much as $1.50 a litre in some areas of the country - a prospect that may lead some families to rethink long road trips, while those opting to leave their cars at home in favour of planes and buses will face fuel surcharges.

That could spell bad news for the tourism industry.

When the price of filling the gas tank increased to $63 from $47 in 2004, it contributed to a 2-per-cent drop in domestic travel by car, notes Randy Williams, president of the Tourism Industry Association of Canada. If gas prices soar to $1.50, Mr. Williams says businesses could be looking at as much as a 4-per-cent decline in travel.
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