Q&A WITH TOURISM COMMISSIONER
With Chattanooga gas prices up 73 cents a gallon from a year ago, AAA predicts the number of travelers on the long July 4th weekend that begins today will be down by 2.5 percent from a year ago.
But Chattanooga tourism leaders hope to buck the predicted dip in travel.
"It's a three-day weekend with good weather so we're optimistic," Chattanooga Area Convention and Visitors Bureau President Bob Doak said Thursday. "We've had good 7 to 8 percent growth in our hotel business already this year."
Spring storms and higher gas prices cut into visitation to the Tennessee Aquarium in May and June. But Aquarium spokesman Thom Benson predicts July will start big today with two downtown fireworks shows, the Chattanooga Lookouts in town and other Independent Day celebrations.
Michelle Parker, a Pittsburgh, Texas vacationer in Chattanooga on Thursday on her way to the Smoky Mountains, was one of the 39 million Americans traveling this weekend.
"Gas prices are higher, but we traded in our Ford Expedition for a Kia Sorento and we wanted to get back to the beautiful mountains of Tennessee," she said.