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Survey finds high gas prices affecting motorists’ driving habits

Officials unsure about impact on summer tourism

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A survey recently conducted by BCAA found that 50 per cent of B.C. drivers have reduced the amount of driving they do in order to compensate for higher fuel prices.

The survey also found that 27 per cent of drivers have altered their summer vacation plans to reduce the amount of driving required.

"Although fuel prices haven’t been in the media spotlight like they were a few months ago, drivers are still very aware of how much they’re paying at the pump," Trace Acres, BCAA director of corporate communications said in a statement.

The survey, a joint undertaking between BCAA and Mustel Group Market Research, questioned 501 B.C. motorists from July 2 to 9.

Currently it is unclear how these changing driving habits have impacted summer tourism numbers in Whistler.

When asked about the survey statistic regarding changing vacation plans, Acres admitted that they didn’t probe the question any further to find out what exactly respondents meant by "altered" summer vacation plans.

"It could… mean everything from staying in town as opposed to going to Whistler to not driving to Saskatoon but going to Calgary instead. We really don’t have any way of nailing down exactly what was meant when people said that," Acres said.

Michele Comeau Thomson, director of communications for Tourism Whistler, speculated that the high gas prices might actually be a good thing for summer tourism because Whistler is closer than other resort destinations to target sending markets such as the Lower Mainland. Thomson noted that regional business is up, and though she couldn’t specifically attribute it to changing gas prices, "lots" of people are coming to Whistler from Vancouver.

Even if this is true, it appears that visitors still appreciate it when the added expense of higher gas prices is taken into consideration. Programs such as ResortQuest’s gas giveaway have been well-received by customers.

The promotion by ResortQuest, which manages properties in Whistler and other resorts, involves giving prepaid gas cards – $20 for two nights, $40 for three nights – to customers who chose to stay in their properties.

"We feel good about the program, and we plan to continue to promote it throughout the summer," noted Steve Schein, western region vice-president of ResortQuest. "I’m surprised that even though gas is a small part of the purchase price, (the free-gas offer) really does make a difference."

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