What with one thing and another, this looks like a year to See America First instead of going the passports - and - shots route.
The saying is "one thing and another," but we all know what that one thing is: the dollar.
Even The Old Country, Anheuser - Busch's theme park, has soft - pedaled its back - to - your -roots appeal this year in favor of portraying itself as a nearby Europe that doesn't devalue your dollars."
Nor does this line stop at our borders: A dozen representatives of "George Washington Country"- a loose ad-hoc coalition of Delaware, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, plus a Georgia travel - industry official- just spent two weeks thumping tubs in Germany, France and England.
Their theme was that it's a bargain to vacation in the United States, where the pound swings more weight, every yen is satisfied and . . . well, you get the idea. It's like vacationing there used to be for us.
The keeness of the fight for tourism among supposedly united states, cities and gerrymandered "countries" or regions was underlined by Paul Decker, head of Pennsyvania's Bureau of Travel Development and chairman of the "George Washington Country" grouping: "Our mission delegates hoped to encourage tour packagers to have their clients spend more time in our states, rather than just seeing New York and Washington . . . or continuing extended visits in the West."
In other words, this is not a War Between the States but a free - for - all among them, with shifting alliances based on common interests that cut across old boundaries- "George Washington Country" ganging up for protection against raids by Alabama and California and Wisconsin and Oregon and other competitors.
Of course, this is an honored old tradition in this country- every little town fought to get the highway or railroad to pass through (or, later, near) it rather than its nearby rival; that's what Booster Clubs and Chambers of Commerce were invented for. It's only lately that they've developed catchy slogans like "Virginia Is for Lovers," "Maryland Is for Crabs," "Missouri Is for Kids (Just Like You)," "I Love N.Y." and "NJoy NJ."
But in the past few years, one theme has become constant, if not yet dominant: that this is a place with lots of things to see and do all, close to one another. It wasn't startling when Alabama announced that it "has it all," or when Pennyslvania stressed its proximity to both New York and Washington; but when Busch Gardens started singing the praises of Williamsburg, Jamestown, Yorktown and the James River area-plus, if you believe it, Hampton - Newport News, Norfolk, Virginia Beach and (honest!) Richmond - the gather - the attractions - in a - circle movement had clearly become stronger than a team of Clydesdales.
Like much, if not most, of America's travel - and - tourist business, this trend was fueled by gasoline.
In a recent interview, a Wisconsin tourism official said that weekend closing of filling stations, as hinted at by the Carter administration, could cost her state $1.1 billion, a fourth of its annual tourist revenue.
What Wisconsin seems to be thinking of is closing gas stations between noon Saturday and noon Sunday, which would let tourists get where they're going, get around a bit close to their home base, and get home.
Colorado, for its part, is considering a plan that would let only travelers buy gas on weekends-not too likely to gain local support, even among people who live off tourism: How would you feel if anybody could buy gas in the metropolitan area except those with D.C., Maryland or Virginia tags?
The question is getting pointed almost everywhere, since estimates are that tourism ranks among the top three industries in 46 of the 50 states (apparently no one is impolite enough to say which four states nobody seems to visit in droves.) And it looks as if this policy will be set in as individual and quirky a fashion as our drinking laws were established, unless the federal government comes out with a Prohibition - like national policy.
Meanwhile, local interests are competing mainly by offering free statewide or regional guides, lobbying quietly against weekend shutoffs of gasoline, pushing their own attractions more aggressively and, especially, pointing out how many gems await discovery within a dayhs drive.
Ironically, one of the leaders in this approach was Pennysylvania, which long ago started promoting proximity to other attractions right along with Gettysburg, and the Amish country and the Liberty Bell.
Now, after Three Mile Island and "The China Syndrome," the Quaker State has to struggle against such lines as "what melts on the ground and not in your mouth? Hershey, Pennsylvania."
No one has yet suggested, for the record, that that and similar "jokes" are being circulated by competing tourist interests; nor, given the state of competition for travel dollars, am I, for the record, willing to rule it out.
They're after our business, and we can only gain from the competition among them.