Gas prices in Rochester are closing in on an all-time highs. Could this impact summer travel?
The continuous rise of gas prices won't change anytime soon. How are local businesses and tourism preparing for a summer of cautious travelers when it comes to their budgets?
ROCHESTER — Gas prices seemingly have been on a nonstop ascent this past year.
That won’t be changing anytime soon according to AAA Gas Prices.
Today, the average price per gallon in Rochester at $4.07 is the highest average price per gallon for any city in the state of Minnesota. Prices are only 6 cents short of Rochester's record-high gas price which was reached on May 22, 2013, at the price of $4.13 per gallon.
There doesn’t appear to be a clear answer to why Rochester has the highest gas prices out of all the Minnesota metropolitan areas.
“Each market reacts at its own pace to changes in oil prices or gasoline prices. Prices could be set anywhere from competition to how much gasoline retailers sell, the shopping patterns of those who were purchasing. Any number of things can cause one market to change quicker than another,” said Gene LaDoucer, AAA director of public affairs for Minnesota.
Even with prices fluctuating towards a consistent uptick, local businesses and travel associations don’t believe the rise in prices will keep people from visiting Rochester or their businesses.
Kathy Gray, co-owner of Lark Toys in Kellogg, Minn., said that rising gas prices won’t keep tourists and customers away from her roadside attraction. Rather that this is just the third consecutive year of adapting to fast paced challenges in the business world.
“There's a rift of unknown we've had for two years now," Gray said. "There's a whole list of other things that are challenges – COVID, supply chains – that we don't know what's going to happen. People still need a little break, and we're not so far from the Twin Cities or from Rochester that a little gas is probably not going to stop people from coming to see us.”
As a state, Minnesota still sits below the national average in price per gallon. The national average sits at $4.33 per gallon while Minnesota's average per gallon is $4.01.
Joe Ward, president of the travel association Experience Rochester, believes people will keep Rochester as an option as a weekend travel destination.
“We're emerging from the pandemic. A couple years of isolation and people want to get out and reconnect,” Ward said. “There’s a great human reconnection that we're seeing. People want to get together and they want to find a way to do so even at the budget. With our proximity to the Twin Cities and Northern Iowa, it's a short drive, so maybe some people will give Rochester a try with some of our, you know, emerging restaurants.”
Even with optimism from Ward and Gray, there is still the reality of gas prices projected to rise further in the coming four-to-six weeks, and break all-time high in the region, LaDoucer said.
“Gasoline prices are going to remain volatile, and they're always going to react to the news of the day," LaDoucer said. "They've been doing that for some time, largely based on whatever news comes out of Ukraine and China these last two months. Unless there's a significant change in oil prices with these nations or other global events, prices seem to be going up with no other direction in sight.”
The jumps in gas prices have been hard to predict to where they will be from one day to the next for everyone. Even so, there’s hope among the Rochester business and tourist community that the rise in prices everywhere won’t keep people on their couches all summer long.
Ward and Gray encourage people to come to Rochester or Lark Toys for the experiences they can provide people.
Gray said, “ I would say to people who come, you don't have to spend a lot of money. Our museum is free, we have lots of play stations that are free. It doesn't have to be a huge amount of money that you spend if gas is the only tight budget you have.”
Ward added that thanks to an emerging local dining scene plus the many craft breweries in Rochester, the city attractive for day trippers.
"We're certainly a great stop in Minnesota, to spend a few days down here and really explore the locally owned businesses that we have. A lot of people are starting to learn about the emergence of Rochester, and I think it's a pleasant surprise when they do come and realize that there's more beyond the medical, (Rochester) is more of a destination,” said Ward.