Gas prices rise as summer moves in

Published 2:40 am Monday, June 15, 2009

NATCHEZ — Gas prices are spiking and are showing no signs of lowering this summer.

Charles Zuccaro, co-owner of Independent Oil and Coal Company, said he anticipates gas prices shooting up to $3 toward the end of the summer.

Currently, crude oil is $71 a barrel, with gas holding at between $2.45 and $2.59, depending on the gas station.

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Zuccaro said he believes that as early as today the prices will bump up to $2.67 or $2.68.

He said summer driving is the push behind higher gas prices, which can result in a dry spell with the tourism industry, Tourism Director Connie Taunton said.

“As it always is, July and August are slow times,” she said.

So the tourism department is focused on regional marketing.

Focusing on day trips is an important initiative during economic slumps, Taunton said.

“We’re hoping that our efforts will pay off as we go on trying to market in that manner,” she said.

Natchez is marketing itself to Baton Rouge, Alexandria, Jackson and other areas within a 200-mile radius, Taunton said.

“We’re hoping that people who may have had a big trip planned say they’re going to go closer to home,” she said.

A strong aspect of regional marketing is to get hotels and bed and breakfasts on board with packages.

“If we offer them special deals we have a better chance of it not hitting us quite so hard,” she said.

The Natchez Tourism Council, which is comprised of local business owners, stresses the importance of packages, Taunton said.

“They’ve been pushing it,” Taunton said — and so has the Natchez Convention Promotion Commission.

“We’re always pushing it.”

And even when gas prices reached $4 a gallon last summer, Taunton said Natchez still saw some tourists.

Taunton said with strong specials offered to tourists and regional marketing, she is hopeful Natchez will do fine this summer.