It’s hard to believe we’re only a week away from the start of Memorial Day weekend. As summer activities kick into gear, so do the businesses that serve them, so no matter your beat you’ve got a bonanza of holiday-related story ideas from which to choose.
Traditionally, it’s a time for business writers to look at the travel and tourism outlook for summer. You can check with area campgrounds, hotels, resorts and theme parks to see how bookings for the Memorial Day weekend and beyond are stacking up compared to previous years, and in turn how that affects hiring, purchasing of food and other supplies, and other transactionst that ripple throughout the local economy.
Here’s the Airlines for America summer forecast just out Thursday; it projects a slight uptick in passengers this year over last. So far, AAA hasn’t released its summer tourism outlook but you can bookmark the site and keep an eye out for it. Demand for hotel rooms is expected to be up slightly as well, according to an industry analyst.
Gas prices always get scrutinized around Memorial Day weekend; some reports say an uptick in crude oil production will keep prices lower this year than in the past couple of summers. Still, businesses seem to be offering a number of promotional gas-cost offsets for consumers. Progressive Grocer magazine reports, for example, that the Giant Eagle supermarket chain, for example, is offering a 20-cent discount per gallon to those who spend $50 in its stores, through May 29, to lure in Memorial Day weekend shoppers. And the CVS drugstores’ ExtraCare rewards program will give shoppers a $10 gas card when they spend $30 on certain items. Casinos nationwide routinely offer gas cards to woo players, and here’s a credit union offering $100 in free gas to car buyers who take out loans by Memorial Day. Scooter sellers also are offering free gas to those who buy cycles through June 30.
Food. Stores cater to the taste for cookouts and barbecues with sales on traditional fare like meat, buns, condiments and potato chips. What other trends are they chasing, from upscale grilling to new products like these Oscar Mayer bacon hot dogs. What about vegan Memorial Day foods, or new offerings from craft breweries, area vineyards, cheese makers, specialty bakeries and the like? Again, you can use the upcoming holiday weekend to set the stage for how your region’s food retailers, makers and restauranteurs expect to fare (no pun intended) in the summer of 2013.
Memorial merchandise. Grave decorations and other items make this a brisk time of year for florists and purveyors of plastic plants. Red, white and blue party supplies are staples at specialty shops and discount stores. Sites like Amazon are even offering patriotic Memorial Day books, jewelry — rings with images of soldiers on them, for example — and patriotic porch flags and other goods all under one “roof’ if you plug in the Memorial Day search term. Collectibles like the 50th Anniversary National Peace Officers Memorial Day badge also are out there.
Even people on the health care beat can find some tie-in, like how hospitals handle summer emergency room admissions — how do warm-weather injuries like fireworks burns, heat stroke and water-related accidents compare to winter problems? Do ERs prepare or staff differently at certain times of year?