N.J. Shore Hopeful as Gas Prices Curb Travel

High gasoline prices are forcing some people to re-evaluate their summer vacation plans. Along the New Jersey shore, some communities are cautiously optimistic that vacationers will choose to stay close to home.

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

And here's another sign of a shaky economy. With the cost of air tickets rising and gas at $4 per gallon or more, many tourist towns are nervous that people will stay home this summer. But along the New Jersey shore, communities are cautiously optimistic. NPR's Frank Langfitt explains.

FRANK LANGFITT: People from New Jersey sometimes complain about being wedged between two big cities: New York and Philadelphia. This summer, officials say the state's location may help save its seashore economy.

Nancy Byrne is executive director of New Jersey's division of travel and tourism. Her slogan this summer is simple.

Ms. NANCY BYRNE (Executive Director, Division of Travel and Tourism, New Jersey): You can get here and back on a tank of gas.

LANGFITT: Byrne is hoping that higher airline prices and a weaker dollar will persuade more people to vacation closer to home. So far, she says rentals along the coast are down a little. But some high-end resorts are actually seeing more traffic. In Avalon, where houses rent for an average of $5,000 a week, realtors say demand is up sharply over last year. Elsewhere, though, officials acknowledge that high gas prices could keep some weekend visitors away. Joyce Gould is deputy mayor of Wildwood Crest, on New Jersey's southern coast.

Ms. JOYCE GOULD (Deputy Mayor, Wildwood Crest): Well, I'm sure we're going to be affected. I mean, even my own daughter who lives an hour and a half away says, you know, I don't know how often we're going to come down this summer because of the price of gas, because they have big cars. They have children and, you know, dogs and things to bring.

LANGFITT: State officials say it's too early to predict how the season will go. They expect to have a better sense after the 4th of July.

Frank Langfitt, NPR News.

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