How $6 a Gallon Gas Is An Opportunity For Small Towns

by Joanne Steele on April 22, 2011

Yesterday, CNBC and a number of blogs were speculating about the possibility of $6 a gallon gas this summer.vintage car travel game

$4 gas is already scaring folks in small towns and rural areas in the US, who are hoping for a better summer tourism season this year.

How should small towns and rural tourism destinations respond to higher gas prices?

1. Remind yourself that every survey you can find says people plan to travel this year.

High gas prices are probably not going to change that IF people are offered an affordable alternative to the long distance trip they can no longer afford.

That’s you!! That’s small resorts and rural destinations that are within a few hundred miles of home!

2. Be clear: People are looking for authentic experiences in their travel.

It’s in every travel trend prediction you can find. Here’s one to check out:  AOL Travel Trends 2011.

Kevin McCarthy, a hospitality veteran with Sheraton Corp. and now general manager of the Beach House Hotel in Hermosa Beach, California says, “It used to be all about location and brand, but now it is about ‘unique.’  That’s you!

3. Be flexible. Higher gas prices means that everything will be costing more, and your customer may be planning shorter stays.

If you are a lodging that has a multi-night minimum, it might be time to rethink how many nights to require. To fill those weeknights, offer a discount. Put a coupon on your Google Places Page, and stick it on your Facebook page.

If you are into souvenirs, meals, guide services, be extra aware of what benefits your customer is looking for and MARKET THOSE BENEFITS. Make sure you’re giving your customer what they’re looking for – “local” is big,  Extra value will be huge.

What benefits do people want and are willing to pay for when they pick a small town or rural destinaion?

  • Family connection and fun.
  • A slower pace of life.
  • Value for their money.
  • Fun!
  • Success with their pursuit, ie, fish, reaching the pinnacle, cycling someplace undiscovered, conquering that whitewater, making their teenager smile

Those of you who are unfamiliar with the idea of selling benefits, check out this post: Nature Based Tourism Is Not REALLY About Nature.

When we are in unusually difficult selling times, survival will depend upon selling the benefits that travelers are longing for.

4. Be positive.  The last thing your visitor wants is to hear about your financial problems and concerns.

Exactly how many customers do you need to have a successful year?? For small town businesses and rural destinations, it’s rarely more than  thousands.  Even if it’s tens of thousands for a medium sized resort town, think about this:

How many people live in a 200 to 300 mile radius of your business or town?

How many of those people will be looking online for travel opportunities within driving distance? How many will be looking for the kinds of benefits, services, products and features you offer?

All those people are looking for ways to travel regardless of gas prices, and all of them will be delighted to have a positive interaction with a local ready to help them have the vacation of their dreams.

Print out this quote about maintaining a positive attitude from Charles Swindoll. Post it where you have to read it at least three times a day.

$6 a gallon gas can be an opportunity. You can’t control the price, but you can control your response to it,

How are you planning on responding to higher gas prices this summer?


Thanks to for this cool vintage Milton Bradley game image.


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