Tourism experts upbeat on Memorial Day travel

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A busy spring travel season at coastal areas led travel and tourism experts to set high expectations for the upcoming Memorial Day weekend.

"Everyone's excited to see the uptick in visitors this spring and optimistic that will continue into the summer," said Charlie Clark, a Hilton Head Island, S.C., visitor bureau spokeswoman.

Compared with the same weekend in 2010, visitors to the beach have increased, Clark said. Hotels, villa rentals and restaurants will be at capacity, she said.

Georgia's Savannah and Tybee Island still have some hotel and rental availability for last-minute travelers, said Joseph Marinelli, the president of Visit Savannah.

The spring tourist season in the Savannah area brought record-breaking hotel tax revenue for February, March and April, Marinelli said.

"We're keeping our fingers crossed that that will continue," he said.

"No vacancy" signs should be a familiar sight at Myrtle Beach, S.C., where Sen. John McCain will be the Memorial Day parade's grand marshal.

Many vacationers planned to cut short their trips and stay fewer days in hotels to compensate for higher fuel prices, said Kimberly Miles, a Myrtle Beach convention and visitors bureau spokeswoman.

"Our area is primarily a drive-to destination," Miles said.

A slight decrease in the number of people traveling by car is not as sharp as expected, given gas prices about $1 higher than last year, according to AAA Auto Club South. Fuel prices are predicted to fall a few more cents before the weekend.

Air travelers for the weekend will spike by 11.5 percent this year, and AAA attributed the increase to more travelers having higher incomes.

Sarita Cross, of Augusta, has a trip to San Diego planned with her husband and two children.

"We got a good price on airfare, and we are staying with family," Cross said.

Cross planned the trip two months ago using Priceline for plane tickets, and she said staying with relatives helped offset the costs. "If we weren't going to San Diego," she said, "we would go someplace else to escape the hot weather."

Lauren Kerbelis, an agent for Southern Travel Agency, said planning helped customers take advantage of low prices on cruises.

"There isn't a rush this week. People already know what they're doing," Kerbelis said.

Gas prices

Gas prices are expected to continue falling as the holiday weekend approaches.

AVERAGE PRICES FOR MAY 24/ONE YEAR AGO

Georgia $3.75 / $2.68

South Carolina $3.59 / $2.62

Augusta-Aiken area $3.70 / $2.59

National $3.81 / $2.78

Source: www.fuelgaugereport.aaa.com

Prices based on regular gasoline

Coming Sunday

There are interesting sites and adventures just an hour from home. From trout fishing in Columbia to Georgia's mysterious Stonehenge in Elberton, the region offers some destinations for "staycations."

SAFE TRAVELS

Follow these tips from Lt. Paul Cosper, public spokesman for the Georgia State Patrol, if you're hitting the road for vacation:

- Check your car, especially tires, for good condition.

- If you find yourself on the side of the road, move as far away from traffic lanes as possible.

- Watch out for motorcycles.

- Do not leave people or pets in parked cars, even if the windows are down.

- If alcohol will be a part of your weekend, find a designated driver before you leave.

- Report erratic driving to 911 or dial *GSP. Collect license plate number, road name and direction of travel.

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Emerydan
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Emerydan 05/26/11 - 07:16 am
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I'm sorry, but Augusta has

I'm sorry, but Augusta has never been and will never be a tourist destination. I don't care how many stories you print trying to claim it is... it just isn't. I mean really, how many times have you heard people say "Let's spend our vacation in Augusta, GA."? Sorry, but it just doesn't happen. This is as much as tourist destination as Jackson, MS or Florence, SC.

ECDanes
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ECDanes 05/26/11 - 04:06 pm
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Not a lot of tourists coming

Not a lot of tourists coming to Augusta for the memorial day weekend that is for sure. Yeah Augusta is not a tourist city.. no beach.. not much of a big historic district like Savannah or Charleston... no big theme park or water park... no casino... no mountains.

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