Boston: Shindy McLaren (name changed on request) and her two kids have cancelled their annual summer holiday this year. The family will not head out to Cape Cod or Rhode Island or any of the popular New England beach side resorts that Bostonians head out to every summer.
As soaring gas prices and rising costs put the brakes on Americans’ addiction to taking off in their cars to explore the country during holidays, thousands of families are facing the prospect of cancelling their summer trips and looking for cheaper forms of entertainment nearer home.
And, with independence day long weekend coming up on 4 July and a long summer vacation ahead, this is already proving to be a blessing in disguise for local enterprises.
”There is a significant increase in the number of people approaching us to rent boats and kayaks this summer. While young professionals and those in love with the outdoors have usually been our clients, this year several couples with young children have been coming to rent our boat, sometime for a couple of hours, sometimes for half the day,” says Ralph Boynton, manager at the Charles River Canoe and Kayak, a company that has been hiring out its fleet for several years.
With fears about an inflationary trend now proving to be true, American families are having to take tough calls on their lifestyles. While the government’s efforts to rejuvenate the economy by issuing $15 billion in stimulus cheques to families has resulted in a slight revival in consumer spending—it rose 0.4% in May—average Americans are clearly opting to hold on to their dollars.
Americans aren’t going places to celebrate 4 July. Theyare trimming costs to discover what their own hometowns have to offer as an alternative. Bostonians, for instance, have discovered boating in local waters. Photo: Sudha Menon
Which possibly explains why some hotels in hugely popular tourism destinations such as Las Vegas and Maine, are offering hot deals to woo holiday makers.
”We are usually booked out for months in advance of the 4 July weekend, but this year, we are left holding inventory,” the manager of a high-end resort at Maine said.
The state is home to the Acadia National Park, which attracts thousands of visitors a year and provides lucrative but seasonal income to a number of family-run, bed-and breakfast inns owned by residents. This particular inn is offering a night’s stay free for every two room nights booked, with breakfast and late check out thrown in for free. Room nights in Maine during peak season between May-October go up by 25-30% driven by huge demand and this particular inn charges around $300 a night.
At between $15-32 for hiring a boat and taking children for an outdoors experience the Charles river, Boynton says families are looking at a healthier and much more economical entertainment avenue during an economic slow down. ” Even a movie for four with popcorn will cost around $50-60, while meandering happily in a boat would cost much less”, he quips.
With the economy on a weak pitch, Boston mayor Thomas M Menino meanwhile, has kicked off a new project this weekend that calls on residents to ”get started on planning a vacation in your backyard”. Project Visit the Pin has giant red map pins being put up to mark some of the city’s tourism destinations for Bostonians to go visit. Boston, one of the cradles of American independence, is home to the famed freedom trail, a children’s museum and the mecca of all basketball lovers in the city, TD Banknorth Garden, the headquarters of the Boston Celtics. ”Boston has so much to offer to its residents”, Menino said at the launch of the initiative this weekend.
Menino’s words will probably be sweet music to people such as Renata Von Tscharner, president of the Charles River Conservancy (CRC), a state body that has been putting a multi-million dollar mission to make the parklands along side the Charles river that runs through the city, more attractive, active and accessible to its residents.
Over the last few years, the CRC has taken giant steps towards this mission in active collaboration with private bodies, the results of which are showing in the form of the Charles now the only urban river in America where swimming is coming back. The CRC and others who helped organize first Official Charles Swim Race late last year, are now working towards developing beaches and pavilions across the length of it, which will allow Bostonians to have better recreational avenues.
In the meantime, the river plays host to a number of events, some of them free, some with a nominal fee including Wednesday night classical music concerts during summer, full moon night Tango events on Weeks Bridge near Harvard Business School and a theatre group that brings its repertoire to the river banks, some 17 miles along which bicycle paths have now been developed. A clutch of 34 islands off Boston harbor , where a national park set 1,600 acres of hiking trails, nature walks, beaches, historic spots, fishing, kayaking, arts even a Red Sox event, is also now being promoted as a must-do for families this summer.
”This city has so much to offer to the people who live here and the Charles is so much part of that cultural fabric.There is so much unexplored potential here that people just need look around to discover”, Tscharner says.