Prices jump at the pump ahead of Memorial Day travel


GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — The price of gas is on the rise in West Michigan as Memorial Day weekend approaches.

On Wednesday, several gas stations had signs posted for $3.09 per gallon of unleaded — one of the highest prices gas experts say the state has seen ahead of Memorial Day in years.

“It’s been a while since we’ve seen gas prices this high Memorial Day weekend. Nationally, it’s the highest since 2014, but in West Michigan, we actually saw prices a bit higher in 2018,” Patrick DeHaan with Gas Buddy said. “I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere close to $4, but we may have to pay a little bit more here with holiday travel.”

DeHaan says the uptick in prices is a result of increased demand. He says oil production has not returned to pre-pandemic levels, which also contributes to the heightened prices.

AAA says they’re expecting several million Americans, including about 1 million Michiganders, to hit the road or take flight for the holiday weekend. They say it’s a 57% increase in Memorial weekend travel compared to 2020, when they recorded a record low.

“A years’ worth of pinned up demand is now being unleashed this summer as Americans anticipate the kick off for this season,” Adrienne Woodfield with AAA Michigan said.

Customers preparing to hit the road say they’ve taken notice of the heightened price.

“You can’t run (your car) on anything else, so you just got to pay the price,” Candice Larson of Grand Rapids said.

Wendy Kotlarczyk, who is travelling with family for the weekend, says she saved money specifically for gas because her truck will only get 6 miles to the gallon because she’s pulling a heavy load.

“We are heading to Tennessee to put our boat in the water there and stay a week and a half,” she said as she stood next to her pickup truck.

Pure Michigan, the state’s official tourism agency, says while gas prices might be inconvenient to some, the return of travel is promising for businesses who lost money in the pandemic.

“I’m expecting a really busy summer. People have been waiting way too long to get out there. We’re all ready to have our lives back,” Dave Lorenz with Pure Michigan said. “You look at 2019 for instance: we had close to $30 billion in economic activity from travel in Michigan. It’s a huge industry, hundreds of thousands of jobs.”

Several beach towns, including Grand Haven, say they’re expecting big crowds for the weekend. Lorenz says even traditionally unpopular destinations in Michigan’s thumb are expected to be busy this summer.

“We’ve been getting our vaccinations, things are looking better, we know how to travel safely now, making sure that we’re still doing some things like distancing to some degree. So, people are going to be traveling and boy, we’re ready for them too,” Lorenz said.

Due to an ongoing shortage of workers, Lorenz says he is asking all travelers to be patient when patronizing businesses.

Additionally, the Kent County Health Department says as the number of people vaccinated increases, there’s a smaller chance of a surge in COVID-19 cases. However, they’re reminding travelers to be smart and heed Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance.

Gas experts predict prices will return to normal by the fall.

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