While we're all still reveling in Sunday's elimination of Osama bin Laden as a terrorist threat, at some point the country will need to turn its attention back to some of the difficult problems it faces. One particularly troubling issue, especially for the travel industry, is the unprecedented rise in gas prices at the pump. How naïve I was several weeks ago when I speculated what effect $3.50 a gallon gas would have on the summer travel season.
Today, the price at the station at the entrance to my subdivision is $4.14 a gallon, and now so-called experts say it might reach $5 by summer. Whereas I didn't think $3.50 gasoline would put much of a dent in summer travel, I'm quite certain $4.50 or $5 gas will. That's very bad news for the hotel industry.
If your hotel or hotels are dependent on vacation travelers, you'll know soon how much of an impact rising fuel prices will have on your business this summer. My guess is you already have a clue, judging by the volume of advanced reservations you've received so far. Even if they're lower than expectations, it's not a certainty the summer will be a complete bust. Lots of families are taking a wait-and-see attitude about summer travel. Some will skip their planned vacations, but I suspect many more will still go but make adjustments in other parts of their budget, lodging being a prime example.
No matter what your advanced reservations data tell you, it's wise to revisit your summer marketing plans. It's probably time to devise new price-sensitive promotions, review your participation in online travel agencies, tap into all chain marketing plans that make sense for you and look for local and regional cooperative marketing opportunities. It's time to go guerilla. If you don't, it could be a long, hot and unprofitable summer.