Image: Georgia Aquarium
John Bazemore  /  AP
A grouper, surrounded by smaller fish, swims past a viewing window at the Georgia Aquarium. Given the current economic climate, the Georgia Aquarium has decided not to increase prices this year.
updated 2/2/2009 5:25:31 PM ET 2009-02-02T22:25:31

Hoping the price cuts will woo cash-strapped travelers, the nation's tourist destinations are taking a page from the retail playbook, offering deep discounts and freezing gate prices.

There are free stays offered at Walt Disney World in Florida and coupons worth $15 at Pennsylvania's Hershey Park. The Georgia Aquarium, the world's largest fish tank, is holding admission at last year's prices.

"Given so many people have lost their jobs and aren't getting raises and aren't getting bonuses, it did not seem appropriate to do a price increase this year," said Dave Santucci, spokesman for the aquarium in downtown Atlanta.

The nation's tourism industry hasn't seen a year this bad since just after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, when hotel occupancy dropped 16 percent compared with the prior year, said Jan Freitag, vice president of Smith Travel Research, which follows the hotel industry. Hotel occupancy dropped 10 percent from November 2007 to the same month in 2008, he said.

"It' not pretty right now, from the hotel perspective," he said. "Some analysts out there think it's going to get much worse."

At Walt Disney World near Orlando, Fla., visitors can save about $400 on a seven-night stay between now and the end of June in a deal that offers three nights free, said Rick Sylvain, spokesman for the resort.

He declined to say how the packages, offered during a typically slow time of year for Walt Disney World, are selling.

Hershey Park, which runs a zoo and amusement park next to the chocolate company's headquarters, is offering $15 off the $51.95 price of admission, said spokeswoman Kathy Burrows.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California is welcoming locals in free once a month, while other destinations, like Silver Dollar City in Branson, Mo., are teaming with hotels and other attractions to offer package deals.

Many attractions are freezing the price of their annual passes, a small gift to visitors faithful enough to come back more than once a year.

"These are our most loyal customers," said Joe Couceiro, spokesman for Busch Entertainment Corp., which owns 10 theme parks from Florida to Pennsylvania, including Sea World and Bush Gardens.

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