NIAGARA FALLS, N.Y. (WKBW) — As gas prices slowly begin to drop, families are expected to begin looking at summer vacation plans.
The AAA said flights, tours, car rentals and hotels for March, April and May, are up more than 200% over last year, and up 10% from 2019.
The top five booked destinations right now for Western New Yorkers are Orlando, Cancun, Honolulu, Las Vegas, and Maui.
Local tourism is still expected to be the place to venture into for those planning to cut a few dollars due to high gas prices coupled with long commutes.
"Our job is sort of get the traveler to see how much more there is to see and do in this region, besides just coming to see the water that's going over the brink So, it's important for us to showcase all of the different factors," Destination Niagara USA president and CEO, John Percy said.
With gas prices still sitting at record-high levels, Western New York tourism departments are working to entice locals, and regional residents, to visit this side of the lake.
"I've been around a long time. I've been around through many crises, and gasoline spikes and so forth, in the past. Typically, this destination fares better the most during a crisis, a post-crisis, or even a gasoline crisis we are experiencing or a spike in pricing," Percy said.
Destination Niagara Falls USA President John Percy said the department's goal is to bring in visitors from cities like Washington, D.C., Philadelphia, New York and Boston.
"What we have discovered is that those people will travel closer to home and we will pull in our advertising. Tighten it up a little bit and stay a little closer to home within an 8-hour radius because that's sort of a one-tank getaway," Percy said.
Ask people like Buffalo native, Jonathan Rinaldo, who said being a tourist in his hometown is something he enjoys no matter how high gas prices may be.
"Due to the rising cost of pretty much everything, especially gas prices, you got to do the best you can to enjoy everyday. Anything in the local economy to enjoy yourself as much as possible," Jonathan Rinaldo said. "I like everything about this place. There's no shortage in good restaurants to go to, like we got the wings and the pizza unmatched anywhere else."
While the end of the pandemic is hopefully in sigh, Percy added he anticipates families disregarding the price of gas due to the amount of pent up energy from dealing with COVID and what felt like an extended winter season.
It has been two years and there's been a lot of savings. There's been huge savings of people that have saved money from the federal stimulus and so forth. A couple of years of pent up demand, so gasoline prices, they may avoid this year. There's so many factors that may play into the psyche of that traveler this year. To come in out of COVID, and if they haven't travel and want to get away, gasoline is not going to stop them. If they want to get away, prices are not going to stop them," Percy explained.