A Tucumcari motel owner said skyrocketing fuel prices primarily due to the war in Ukraine had lowered same-day reservations but not yet affected reservations of Route 66 travelers.
David Brenner, owner of the Roadrunner Lodge Motel and a former chairman of the city’s lodgers tax advisory board, said last week he’s seeing fewer spring-break travelers than expected, which he attributes to higher gas prices.
“The people who have made reservations have showed up,” he said. “The people who do same-day reservations have kind of fallen off a bit. I’m seeing fewer last-minute decisions to road trip that may be impacted by gas prices.”
Brenner said business at his motel has remained strong and appears to still be strong this summer.
“People who know they’re doing Route 66 are planning for it and already have reservations, I’m not seeing a bunch of cancellations,” he said. “Trips are still happening in spite of anything else. It’s simply the same-day business I’ve seen drop off fairly quickly recently.”
Scott Crotzer, executive director of the Tucumcari/Quay County Chamber of Commerce, agreed with Brenner that Route 66 business later this year appears to still be strong, and he remained hopeful the effect on tourism would be minimal.
“I just confirmed a motorcycle tour that’s going to use a lot of gas that’s coming through in September,” he said.
Crotzer agreed that many Route 66 travelers, especially from foreign countries, are highly motivated to make the trip and won’t let higher fuel costs deter them.
“Some of the roads (on Route 66) aren’t even paved, and they’ll take their classic cars on those dirt roads,” he said. “That’s a pretty good commitment level. During the pandemic, a lot of people decided to take once-in-a-lifetime cross country trips, and they’re still doing it.”
Crotzer noted a planned lifting of mask mandates by airlines in May may have a bigger effect on Tucumcari tourism than gasoline prices.
“That, I think, will affect tourism,” he said. “But it hasn’t affected us yet. I think everybody knows about gas prices (going up); they see it on the news. They still had rather deal with that than masks.”
AAA reported Monday the price of regular gasoline rose by 30 cents a gallon in just a week and by nearly $1 in a month. The price for a gallon regular unleaded was $4.325, surpassing the previous record set in 2008. The price was $2.859 a year ago.
Gasoline, which already had seen substantial price increases this year due to higher demand, began spiking with Russia’s invasion of neighboring Ukraine in late February.
Russia supplies roughly 10% of the world’s oil, and its prices are sensitive to any real or possible disruptions of that supply. The U.S. has pledged to stop imports of Russian oil in response to the invasion.
Tucumcari gas stations saw the price per gallon increase about 50 cents in a week. Local increases occurred almost daily. One day last week, one station raised its price 30 cents higher than another less than a quarter-mile away on South First Street. Eagle-eyed motorists who spotted the lower-priced fuel clamored to top off their tanks up there before it could change its prices, as well.
Local consumers not only were filling the pinch, but also entities.
The board of the Arch Hurley Conservancy District last Tuesday discussed how higher fuel prices were making it difficult to plan for its 2023 budget. They also talked about deferring repairs on a piece of equipment and delaying the burning of brush in irrigation canals due to the higher costs.