Record gas prices are making Ontario travel and tourism ‘very unaffordable’, experts warn

As gasoline prices reach record highs, those in the tourism and hospitality industry say it will force people to make difficult decisions about where they will travel this summer.

The average gas price in the GTA and much of southern Ontario is expected to hit a new record this weekend. Gasoline prices should have hit 212.9 cents a liter on Friday, according to Canadians for Affordable Energy, which tracks consumer fuel costs. They are expected to reach 215.9 cents per liter on Saturday, the group said.

“This will limit the number of trips people take and how far they are willing to go,” said Wayne Smith, professor of hotel and tourism management at the Ted Rogers School of Management at the Toronto Metropolitan University.

Smith says the combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and rising gas prices will hamper the recovery of the tourism industry, especially in rural areas that depend on city residents to relax and visit their businesses.

Inflation is already driving up the prices of other goods and services, exacerbating the problem.

“Many trips become very unaffordable,” he said.

Wayne Smith is Professor of Hospitality and Tourism Management at the Ted Rogers School of Management at the Toronto Metropolitan University. (SHS)

Smith adds that this will force people to make fewer trips and get closer to their destinations.

He recalls that the last time people talked like that about gas prices was during the energy crisis of the 1970s. Back then, high gas prices changed consumer behavior, and he expects it to be the same this time around.

“If we look historically, when bad economic times hit, usually the first thing that gets cut is travel budgets,” Smith said.

He says it will make the recovery slower and more painful for an already struggling industry.

In response to volatility, some business owners are taking unique approaches.

Jessica Off, owner of Guess Where Trips Inc., offers unexpected road trips that guide you through many different topics.

She started her business in January 2020 and says COVID-19 was more devastating to the industry than gas prices at the time. But now, she says, travelers’ decisions are dictated by the cost of fuel.

They’re pooling money to split gas money, they’re choosing closer destinations, and they’re opting to stay overnight to try and take advantage of the Ontario Staycation tax credit, under which Ontarians can claim up to 20 percent. living expenses this year.

“We have heard a lot of comments from travelers about gas prices, so many people are postponing their potential vacation and taking more local trips,” Off said.

Smith says these solutions could increase local traffic in Toronto, where people may prefer to spend weekends closer to home rather than driving to more remote locations across the province.

“We may see a significant increase in local traffic as people replace their weekend getaways with more local getaways.”

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