In-state travel encouraged

With gas prices on the rise and the economy in a slump, North Carolina still wants you to travel – but not too far.

North Carolina's tourism office is putting more money and effort into persuading state residents to stay close to home for vacation. Other states are doing the same thing.

Lynn Minges, executive director of the N.C. Division of Tourism, Film and Sports Development, said the division has been monitoring national research and conducting a phone survey to see traveler prospects.

“Results indicated that most North Carolina residents are continuing to travel. Basically from that research we devised a campaign to target residents,” Minges said.

After realizing the travel market would be soft, North Carolina boosted its $180,000 in-state campaign with another $250,000 for creative development and Internet and radio presence.

The Travel Industry Association, a national organization, predicted summer vacation travel would be down 1.5 percent from last year. In its survey it found that 41 percent of travelers planning to drive for their vacation would change their plans if gas prices rise further. Almost 40 percent said they would drive a shorter distance.

Carol Gifford, AAA Carolinas spokeswoman, said it's a good idea to market in-state with the economy being sluggish.

“When the economy is tight and people are concerned about spending much money or spending any money on travel, they reconsider and they're more likely to spend time at locations nearby because it's less expensive for them,” Gifford said.

South Carolina's Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism hasn't shifted its marketing focus: “Our central location lends itself to the drive market and the concentration is on bringing in out-of-state dollars,” said spokesman Marc Rapport.

But other states have.

Georgia, Tennessee, Virginia, New Hampshire and South Dakota are among states marketing home-state tourism to their residents in light of high gas prices, according to those state's tourism departments.