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High gas prices might keep Ohioans home this summer

Ellen Grinsfelder's Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls is located in the Hocking Hills in southeast Ohio. Her property boasts old-style cabins with modern amenities, a stark contrast from the city life in Columbus an hour and a half away.

"They can stay rather close to home and feel like they're worlds away," she says.

Grinsfelder says many of her customers are choosing Ohio over other trips this summer to budget for higher gas prices.

"I think our guests are staying closer to home," she says. "For us, it probably is more that they're not taking quite the elaborate trip that they might've. So for example, instead of going to Europe or maybe down to the Caribbean or even traveling as far as Florida, they're taking a look at what's closer to home."

Grinsfelder says she already has a higher number of visitors compared to last year and says she expects that trend to continue through summer.

Up north on Lake Erie, at the Put-in-Bay Resort, Charles Reed says he is experiencing something similar.

"We have almost a record number of bookings already," Reed says. "At two of the three properties we represent, we are completely full on every weekend this summer except for the July 4th weekend. We have a few rooms left."

Reed says people are looking for shorter trips and says he expects business this summer to exceed past years.

"Last summer we had at our marquee property here, the Put-in-Bay Resort we had, I believe 68 days straight during the summer of 100 percent occupancy," Reed says. And we should surpass that this summer.

But gas prices aren't keeping Sharon Leader and her husband Kent from taking longer car trips this summer. The retired couple from Gahanna relaxes near the Santa Maria in downtown Columbus as they talk about their summer plans.

"We are going to take road trips to see our son and family in Chicago, even with the price of gas," she says. "We might go to Toronto and we see our son in Cincinnati this fall we're going to go to the Smokey's again. That's one of our favorite places."

The Leaders did make an investment to ease the burden of gas prices they bought a hybrid in November.

"I get about 46.4 (miles per gallon) right now so that's pretty good," he says.

Sharon says she and her husband still economize by eating in cheaper restaurants and sticking to their routine of packing lunches to eat while on the road.

"We just like the flexibility of road trips so we will do it but we will try to do it wisely and maybe not quite as much as what we hoped to," she says.

Ohio's tourism department is launching a new campaign aimed at keeping Ohioans closer to home this summer. The state is spending $2.5 million dollars in advertising to promote the state's tourism industry which brought in $38 billion last year.