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Offsetting pain at the pump

Hotels and tourism groups are stepping up promotions to encourage road-trippers to keep driving this summer.

By Donna Rosato, Money Magazine staff writer

NEW YORK (Money) -- Rising gas prices got you down? The travel industry wants to help.

With gas prices expected to top $3 a gallon again this summer - and even go much higher in some areas - tourism groups are doling out free gas and other promotions to encourage Americans to stick with their traditional summer road trips.

The travel industry fears aren't unfounded. Half of Americans say they will cut back on travel plans if gas prices reach $3.50 a gallon this summer, according to a survey released Wednesday by the nonprofit environmental think tank Civil Society Institute and its 40MPG.org project, which is lobbying for more fuel-efficient cars.

"Experts often say that Americans will grin and bear these higher gas prices. But that's clearly not the case," said Civil Society Institute president and 40MPG.org founder Pam Solo.

The national average price of unleaded gas is $2.97, up 30 cents from a month ago, according to the daily fuel gauge report by AAA. Gas prices have been rising quickly the past few weeks because of tighter supplies, higher oil prices and closings at some big refineries.

As the busy summer driving season gets under way, the travel industry wants to do whatever it can to encourage Americans to get in their cars if prices continue to go up as predicted.

Among deals the lodging and tourism industry is offering this summer:

  • BnBFinder.com, an online bed and breakfast directory, is keeping track of inns and B&Bs offering rebates and free gas at BnBFinder.com/FreeGas.
  • The southern California city of Costa Mesa is offering people who stay in Costa Mesa hotels a $30 restaurant certificate every night of your stay, as well as a $30 gas certificate. Details at http://www.travelcostamesa.com/.
  • California mountain resort Big Bear is giving away a $25 gas card for visitors who stay at participating hotels in the area through November 18th. Go to Big Bear's promotions Web page for more information.
  • The Branson, Missouri Tourism Center is offering 20 cents a gallon off gas for people living 100 miles or more away from Branson. (See more.)
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