PINELLAS COUNTY, Fla. — Gas prices in Florida are averaging $4.76 a gallon, hitting record highs.
The higher cost at the pump is hitting Tampa Bay tourism businesses hard, with some tour boats costing thousands of dollars for a single fill up.
Captain Jason Goulet of Queen Fleet Deep Sea Fishing on Clearwater Beach said they have three boats that they operate. Their largest, the Super Queen, has a 2,000 gallon tank and tops out for around $9,000.
For the first time in 50 years, the fishing boat fleet company has added a temporary fuel change: $2 per person for a half day trip and $4 per person for a full day trip.
“We’ve never had a fuel surcharge on any of our boats in the entire time our owners have owned the boats. Of course, we have also raised ticket prices just from the rising costs of everything else,” Captain Goulet said.
The higher fuel costs are causing families like the McDonalds, who are currently visiting Clearwater Beach from Phoenix to alter their vacation plans.
“We planned this trip well in advance and the plane cost actually tripled from the time we booked it,” Matt McDonald said.
McDonald, alongside his wife and daughters, opted not to rent a car and instead use the money they would have spent on gas for activities like a Cruisin’ Tiki boat ride.
It’s a choice Darius Grogan of Cruisin’ Tiki Clearwater believes a lot of families are making, adding that they are opting to take the trip, but cut activities.
“I’ve definitely seen that with the gas prices in general we haven’t seen as many bookings as we were last year," Grogan said. "Normally, a lot of people are able to fish and go on the tikis but now they have to pick and choose whether to fish, go jet skiing go on a dolphin cruise or eat a fancy meal."
According to AAA, high gas prices could be here to stay — at least through the summer months.
“Globally supplies are extremely tight so it’s really going to take a massive increase in oil production to help meet that growing demand or unfortunately a recession to push the demand down,” spokesperson Mark Jenkins said.
Captain Goulet said some trips they’re just breaking even. On one of Tuesday’s trips, they sailed with just 12 people. Last year at this time, the boat carried about 80 people per trip.
Yet, he hopes as more families get the urge to get away, they’ll choose Clearwater Beach.
“The weather is beautiful, there is barely a ripple on the water and hopefully more families will come check us out,” he said.