Newport, RI, tourism will not be affected by high gas prices

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Discover Newport asks every tourist who enters its Welcome Center what state they are from, and over the past 30 years the responses have been remarkably consistent: in a normal year, approximately 60% of Newport visitors come from Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, and New Jersey.

Most of these visitors – 90% of Newport tourists – arrive by car. And despite record prices at the pumps this summer, Discover Newport CEO and Executive Director Evan Smith expects most of them to come back.

“I’ve seen high gas prices three or four times in the last 33 years…(the first time) we thought it would be bad, but Newport does well when gas prices are climbing because people are staying closer to home,” Smith said.

He continued, “While $5 a gallon is a record and will deter some, it’s not a major factor we fear for this summer.”

Smith doesn’t think gas prices will cause people to cancel planned trips to Newport, but said they could have other impacts on people’s travel budgets. He said Discover Newport will be watching this summer to see if travelers are looking for savings in other areas, such as accommodations or restaurants, to offset rising fuel prices.

Mark Schieldrop, public affairs specialist at AAA Northeast, echoed Smith’s sentiments.

“We’ve surveyed our members, and while high gas prices may affect plans, people won’t be canceling trips. People will try to save money in other ways – housing, food, souvenirs,” Schieldrop said.

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Schieldrop also mentioned that AAA, optimistic after seeing data from Memorial Day Weekend, which was the strongest since 2019, predicted a record weekend of car trips this July 4, estimating that 42 million Americans will drive something. leaves to celebrate independence day.

This notion of increased traffic and fuel demand even in the face of high prices is supported by Rhode Island Turnpike and Bridge Authority traffic tracking on the Newport Pell Bridge, which had 949,818 transactions as of May 2022, or nearly 50,000 more than last year. , and around 20,000 less than the pre-pandemic figures of 2019.

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Speaking specifically of Newport, Schieldrop predicted a strong tourist season in part because of the city’s “diverse and full range of tourism opportunities”, citing the clustered opportunities to hit the beach, discover fine restaurants, explore the rich history of the city and attend unique events. such as music festivals and marquee sailing competitions, a rare combination that keeps tourism demand in Newport consistently high, regardless of economic factors.

Megan Erbes, Director of Communications at the International Tennis Hall of Fame, seemed to confirm this line of thinking when she said, “We haven’t seen any negative impact on ticket sales so far. »

She was talking about the upcoming Infosys Hall of Fame Open, which will run July 10-17 with weekly and daily tickets available. She said many of those attending the event are from Rhode Island, Connecticut and Massachusetts, and ticket sales always increase the actual week of the event, but so far ITHOF has done well with ticket sales and does not expect to see a rejection.

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Both Smith and Schieldrop raised the idea that despite rising gas prices, there is still pent-up demand for travel after people have spent much of the past two years feeling cooped up at home in due to the pandemic.

“People are tired of being home and filling their Amazon carts with stuff. People are going to eat up those fuel costs to have memorable experiences,” Schieldrop said.

“There are things that people prioritize when things get expensive…people are passionate about investing in travel more than commodities. Newport is a special place that attracts many types of travelers – culture history, food, sports – and people are not going to deny themselves,” said Smith, speaking of Newport’s appeal as a national and even international destination.

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