Gas Prices Taking Toll on Florida Tourism

Demetria James is driving an SUV-load of kids to Central Florida for a final summer vacation before school starts. She was a little horrified to hear about the spike in gas prices.

"We’re from Texas, and in Texas, it’s been about the same along the way, $2.80, $2.80, and now you’re telling me it’s $3.00?"

James said the high cost of gas definitely played a role in the family travel budget. While it didn’t stop them from driving to Disney, they are staying at a house instead of hotel so they can cook and save money on restaurant bills, and gas prices are cutting even deeper into others’ travel budgets.

A recent survey found that more than four out of 10 out-of-staters are staying closer to home this year and not driving to Florida, specifically because of gas prices. Fuel costs’ affect on airfare also seems to be having an impact. Tampa International is down 75,000 passengers from this time last year.

Hotels on the space coast say it’s been the worst July in years, with occupancy rates off by 15 percent. Other parts of the state report similar drop-offs.

Cragin Mosteller with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association is trying to look on the bright side.

"We still feel confident that one month is nothing to be overly concerned about. We still have a long year left of opportunities."

Visit Florida is trying a counter-offensive with a new campaign to encourage residents to visit the state’s tourist attractions. But many in the state’s $62 billion tourism industry are holding their breath as we head into one of the most active months of hurricane season.