BOSTON (CBS) - The state's multibillion-dollar tourism industry is poised for a strong summer, if recent data and interviews with industry executives are any indication.
"We're really pretty bullish on what the summer is going to look like," said Patrick B. Moscaritolo, CEO of the Greater Boston Convention and Visitors Bureau.
"First and foremost, business travelers are back," Moscaritolo said.
Hotel operators like business travelers because they often book three or four nights at a time rather than the shorter stays more common with leisure travelers. Business travelers are responsible for about 40 percent of hotel room nights in the Boston-Cambridge area, according to industry research.
The most recent data show business bookings at their strongest since 2007, Moscaritolo said.
Two highlights scheduled for the business travel calendar this summer are the June launch of Japan Air Lines' direct service between Tokyo and Boston on the Boeing 787 and the late-July meeting of the Global Business Travel Association, which is set to hold its annual convention and bring as many as 6,000 visitors to the region.
Leisure travel is harder to measure. But, relatively low gasoline prices in the U.S. bode well for the summer tourism season.
Some economists peg $4 per gallon as the price at which consumers begin to cut back on driving. The U.S. Energy Information Administration hasn't listed a nationwide average price per gallon of $4 or more for two consecutive weeks since the summer of 2008.
At the Faneuil Hall information desk, David Sanchez said the sale of trolley tickets has been brisk — between 30 and 50 trolley tickets per day — and he has been told that number likely will hit about 100 come summer.
A visitor from Minnesota who gave her name only as Melissa said the sluggish economy has not affected travel decisions she's made. She was in Boston for three days and planned a walk on the Freedom Trail and a cruise on Boston Harbor among items on her itinerary.
European economies have been shaky over the past year, but the most serious troubles with the euro are confined to countries whose economic impact on the Massachusetts travel industry is minimal.
Spaniards, according to the U.S. Department of Commerce, accounted for about 30,000 visitors to Massachusetts in 2010, the most recent data available. That's about 2.3 percent of international travelers to the state. Greece was not even among the government's list of the top dozen countries of origin for travelers to the state.
Lisa van der Pool of the Boston Business Journal can be seen weekdays at 6 a.m. on WBZ-TV.
You can follow Lisa on Twitter at @lvanderpool.
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