Gas prices are expected to peak later this month or in May -- good news for those making their living on tourism in Tampa, Fla.
Still, more and more people plan to travel by train and bus to compensate for higher gas prices, the tourism industry group Tampa Bay & Company heard Tuesday.
Sixty-seven percent of AAA Auto Club members said in a recent survey they are making alternative plans for a vacation between May and September, while 15 percent remain undecided, AAA spokeswoman Jessica Brady told the group.
The price for a gallon of regular gas was reported at an average of $3.95 on Tuesday in the Tampa Bay area, approaching the $4 a gallon motorists already are paying in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and Gainesville.
Gas prices notwithstanding, tourism numbers are expected to rise this year, the group heard from consultant Mark Bonn, a Florida State University professor.
Those include 5.1 million overnight visitors in Hillsborough County, a 12.7 percent increase, and total visitor spending of $3.4 billion, a 6.8 percent increase.
In addition, Busch Gardens Tampa Bay is headed into its peak summer season with expectations it will exceed a strong performance a year ago, by focusing on local residents and seasonal visitors, said theme park President Jim Dean.
This will include the addition of Christmas features such as a snowmaking machine on top of the park's signature annual Halloween attraction.
"As soon as we chase the zombies out of the park," Dean said, "we will bring Christmas in."
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