High gas prices may keep people closer to home

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SEVIER COUNTY (WVLT) -- The price for a gallon of gas in East Tennessee is up $0.85 over last year.

On Thursday, the average price you're paying to fill up in Knoxville was $3.10 a gallon for regular.

Just a month ago, it was $2.86, and a year ago it was $2.35.

The national average for a gallon stands at $3.19.

With spring break just around the corner, do the high prices mean more people will be staying close to home?

Some Gatlinburg officials hope the prices will stop people from talking about the beach and help them consider heading for the mountains this springtime.

Consider that on Thursday, the temperature was in the sixties and their was a new smell in the mountain air.

"It feels like springtime in the mountains, only we're missing the leaves and the green on the hills,” said Joan Chesick.

Along with the leaves, there are still a lot of closed areas in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, though they are getting ready to open.

"We start out with seven of our ten campgrounds opening," said Nancy Gray, a spokesperson for the park.

When the campgrounds open, it will signify that spring break will soon arrive, and with it, the time of year that students can’t wait for.

"My mom actually thought spring break was a week earlier than it is, said Callie Worden, a student. “I get two weeks off, so I'm going to Florida."

Recently, Gatlinburg officials have been meeting to find ways of beating the stereotypical "beach" spring break.

They hope that when spring break is coupled with Easter weekend, they can target all the right people.

"We attract more of the families with school children,” said David Perella, Gatlinburg’s tourism director, “and not necessarily the college students."

The city has hired a new marketing firm which plans to target the economic conditions of traveling.

"In regard to gas prices, that will absolutely affect our media strategy,” said Art Webb, president and CEO of BCF. “We'll focus a little more on closer in markets."

The long-term goal is to change their marketing position.

Instead of simply urging people to come to the mountains, they want to urge people to make memories.

"You're going to arrive at a place that's going to touch you more emotionally, as you get connected to your family more tightly," said Webb.

If you're planning to do some hiking in the park, officials urge people to watch the weather, because March can bring some strong storms.

Also, if you're wanting to reserve campground or pavilion space, you can now do that online.

To find the link, click on the Hot Key.

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