Our students have gone to Rome to study the rhetoric of tourism and travel. In fact, of course, tourism is all around us. Every student at Penn State lives at a center of tourism, with tens of thousands of people coming great distances to attend sports and popular entertainment, to hunt, to fish, to re-visit the scenes of their undergraduate lives.
And on weekends everyone is invited to be a tourist.
The recent and rapid rise in the price of gasoline has has resulted in a widespread and concerted effort by tourist and retail businesses to persuade Americans to take pleasure in keeping their tourism local or to take their vacations at the backyard grill.
Just this week, with the approach of the three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend (created partly to favor the tourist industry and the associated oil business, always a beneficiary of travel), the Centre Daily Times of State College, Pennsylvania, home of Penn State, ran several stories about the wonders of local tourist sites.
On May 15 the paper reported that AAA expected people to drive less this Memorial Day weekend.
On Thursday, May 22, a pseudo-story (actually an ad for Enterprise car rentals) ran a story about TV travel personality Rudy Maxa advising people on ways to keep their vacations local.
On Saturday, May 24, the paper reported that, “As consumers began hitting the road Friday for the Memorial Day weekend, they faced the sobering reality that it now costs $87 to fill a Ford Explorer SUV, up $14 from last year, and $72 to fill a mid-sized Honda Accord, up $12.”
The editorial in the CDT for Saturday, May 24, 2008, urged readers to consider taking vacations closer to home, with short trips to Gettysburg, local parks, Penns and Woodward caves, and the Shavers Creek Environmental Center. The editorial reminded readers of local minor league baseball, the Arts Festival, the Grange Fair, Penn State ice cream, and the resources of the Central Pennsylvania Convention and Visitors Bureau (which itself is a reminder of the crucial importance of tourism to the economy of central Pennsylvania).
Section B of the Sunday paper featured on its front page “Getaways on a Budget,” with ideas about nearby tourist destinations.
Tourism is big business all over America, and rising gas prices have introduced the theme of local travel as part of a new business strategy in local papers all over the country.