Flashbacks of 2008 gas prices chilled spines throughout Memorial Day weekend as costs jumped at the pump from the $2.20 national average. The popular Circle K, at the entrance of the Strip on Front Beach topped out at $2.49 for regular unleaded for the weekend, 13 cents higher than the weekend’s national average of $2.36. Still, that’s $1.44 a gallon cheaper than a year ago when fears of an oil shortage sent energy prices soaring. Cheaper gas means more driving, which bodes well for the Panama City Beach’s summer tourism season.
Last summer’s oil shortage cut 2008 travel significantly. Recently released Energy Department data says, November to November last year, U.S. motorists drove 53.2 billion fewer miles than they did over the same period a year earlier. Gas prices in 2008 affected travelers deeply. GfK Roper Public Affairs and Media polls showed 54 percent of Americans cut back travel in 2008 because of gas prices. But, the Energy Information Administration’s April 2009 report says retail prices for April through September in 2009 are projected to average $2.23/gallon. With that 40% decrease in the cost of gas, 2009 summer travel should see a significant boost.
AAA travel and auto group forecasted a 1.5 percent rise in travel compared with 2008 for the U.S. Memorial Day weekend, the unofficial beginning of the traditional summer driving season. The trend is expected to continue during the major summer travel holidays of the Fourth of July and Labor Day as lower fuel prices resuscitate the sensibility for folks to take a vacation.
If these predictions hold true, Panama City Beach should be a huge beneficiary of the travel trend. Drivers to Panama City Beach this Memorial Day weekend said the gas prices definitely impact their travel plans. “Gas prices change everything,” said Cindy Matheny, who drove to the Panama City Beach from Troy, Alabama to enjoy the weekend. She, with a car packed with kids, filled the tank of her van at the Chevron on the corner of North Lagoon and Joan Avenue. “We’ve come to Panama City Beach every summer. The price of gas determines how many trips we’ll take. You really have to weigh your options these days. Gas is still cheaper than last year and this economy needs the help.”Print Story