Urdi: Rising gas prices may not affect Mammoth summer tourism

Spiking gas prices should not affect Mammoth’s summer tourism as much as many might think, says Mammoth’s Tourism Director, John Urdi.

“It’s not a deal breaker,” he said.

Average retail gasoline prices in California rose 17.5 cents a gallon in one week, averaging $3.72 on Monday, Feb. 28, according to gasoline price website CaliforniaGasPrices.com.

In Mammoth, Lee Vining and Bridgeport, gas prices were well above $4 a gallon and still rising. On Thursday in Mammoth Chevron’s regular was at $4.39 a gallon.

Unrest in the Middle East is the prime contributor to the price spikes, the web site said.
Still, Urdi said he is unfazed, so far.

“We’re unique because of a lot of things,” Urdi said.

“One of them is the loyalty of the Southern California market. Many people may decide to drive up anyway. An extra $40 is a drop in the bucket in the grand scheme of things.

“We’re in a location, too, where there are a lot of no-cost things to do, like hiking, cycling, mountain biking and fishing.

“It’s not like going to Disneyland where it costs you $100 just to get in the door.”

Urdi said the pinch might be felt in discretionary spending such as restaurants and retail.
Danna Stroud, formerly the town’s tourism and recreation director, echoed for Urdi’s prediction.

Stroud was here in 2008, when gas prices breached the $4 mark between spring and summer.
“I would say we had a decent summer,” she said.

“Air fares really went up, and those long-haul vacations disappeared, so people came back to Mammoth. Mammoth and the Eastern Sierra rode it out pretty well.”

One of the noticeable effects of the 2008 gas spike was that local businesses offered many different forms of value packages to attract visitors. In Mammoth, Chevron will give back 10 cents for every gallon purchased on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

A lodging business might offer to pay for a fill-up of gas in exchange for a three-night rental.
Or a restaurant might offer a two-for-one deal – that kind of thing.

“We saw a lot of packaged deals in 2008,” she said.

Where the current spike is headed is unknown, but the current prices are prodigious.

Nationally, the average price for gasoline increased 17 cents a gallon in the last week to $3.34 a gallon, according to CaliforniaGasPrices.com.

In California, prices by last Monday were 75.6 cents a gallon higher than the same day one year ago, and were 38.5 cents a gallon higher than a month ago.

In Mammoth, the price of regular gas was at $4.17.

Nationally, the average increased 25.3 cents a gallon during the last month and is 64.9 cents a gallon higher than a year ago.