The table below shows the proportion of American leisure travelers who (in the next 12 months) expect to travel more, less and the same as they did in the most recent 12-month period. The results show strong current traveler optimism.
Travel Optimism Soars
(Percent of all leisure travelers)
Meanwhile, future travel sentiment across the country is slightly uneven, with residents of the coasts showing the highest levels of optimism for travel in the upcoming year. 40.2 percent of residents of the Pacific Coast region expect to travel more in the upcoming year, while 36.7 percent of travelers living in the Northeast and 38.9 percent in the Southeast expect to increase the number of trips they will take in the next year. Future travel expectations in the central areas of the country are marginally lower.
Travel Optimism: by Region
(Percent of regional residents expecting to travel more in the next 12 months)
Much of this current optimism is being generated by younger travelers. The charts below show the most recent survey’s data broken out by generation. As is typically the case, younger travelers show the highest propensities to be planning more travel in the upcoming 12 months. Nearly two thirds (57.9%) of Millennials currently say they will travel more in the next 12 months. By comparison, only one quarter of Baby Boomers (26.8%) are planning to bump up the number of trips they will take in the next year. For Millennials, these are big changes from what was seen this summer. In our July survey, only 51.4 percent of Millennials said they were planning to take more trips. The older generations have shown much smaller growth rates between the two most recent survey waves. It seems clear that growth leisure travel volume in 2017 may depend on the younger generation’s ability to live out these high expectations.
Travel Optimism: by Generation
(Percent of Americans by generation expecting to travel more in the next 12 months)
Marijuana’s place in the tourism industry
America is blazing today. Cannabis aficionados across the continent are gathering to celebrate 4/20, the unofficial, counter-culture holiday enjoyed annually by millions. So many revelers observe this holiday, in fact, that here in our beloved hometown of San Francisco a capacity crowd of over 15,000 is expected to converge on Hippy Hill in Golden Gate Park to partake, and enjoy our beautiful Spring weather.
Much has been said in recent years about marijuana legalization and its impact on tourism. Most of this talk has been simply the personal opinions of those who (for either political or monetary reasons) have an agenda and interest in the conversation’s outcome. As devoted seekers of the unvarnished truth, our tolerance here at Destination Analysts for opinion unsupported by data is low. So, we’ve done a little exploration, and in the free-wheeling spirit of the day, we thought it would be fun to look at some pot stats we’ve collected from our The State of the American TravelerTM survey.
As it turns out, not a huge proportion of tourists actually visit marijuana dispensaries while traveling. Only 3.4 percent of all American leisure travelers have visited a marijuana dispensary while traveling for in the past year, making this niche a relatively small one. Given the size of our traveling population, this means about 6.3 million persons participated in pot-related activities while traveling last year. This small market makes sense, of course, as few states have actually taken the steps to legalize. As of today, only Colorado, Washington, Oregon, Alaska and the District of Columbia have taken the step, leaving most of the country out of the game.
The Current Legalization Map
For the destination marketer, the million dollar question is, of course, how legalization effects the flow of visitor volume and spending. The picture here is actually quite murky, with more people finding the practice of a destination legalizing pot as unappealing than appealing. In a recent wave of The State of the American TravelerTM , we asked leisure travelers to think about destinations where marijuana is legal (i.e., where they could buy marijuana-related products in a dispensary.) Respondents were then asked how appealing they generally find this practice to be when evaluating such destinations for travel. Nearly 38 percent of leisure travelers fell into the unappealing camp, saying the practice was either “Unappealing” or ” Very unappealing.” About one quarter of American travelers (24.7%) say the practice is either “Appealing” or “Very appealing.” Strong sentiments at both ends of the appeal spectrum point to the negative–as travelers are nearly twice as likely to find legalization to be “Very unappealing” than “Very appealing.”
How Legalization Impacts Destination Appeal
(Legalization makes a destination…)
Chart source: The State of the American Traveler, Destination Analysts, Inc.
How pot legalization will play out in terms of the overall economic impact in a given destination obviously can’t be divined from a national survey like this. However, it’s clear that marijuana tourism has appeal in certain segments, as well as the potential to turn other visitors off. Given the unfortunately controversial nature of this topic, we’ll be surprised if a comprehensive and credible study emerges examining the economic impact of these laws on specific destinations.
We’ll remain hopeful, though, and leave you with a few fun marijuana tourism facts to inhale:
- Marijuana tourism is clearly more popular with the young. Our survey shows that 6.3 percent of Millennial travelers visited a marijuana dispensary while on a leisure trip in the past year. They were three times as likely as Baby Boomers (2.1%) to do so. Among travelers rating legalization as “Appealing” or “Very appealing” fully 46.0 percent were Millennials. Only 15.8 percent of those who find the practice on some level “unappealing” are from this younger generation.
- In fact, pot tourism appeals to a different overall demographic. Comparing travelers who find marijuana legalization to be an appealing destination attribute to those who don’t, those in the appealing camp tend to be more diverse (ethnically), more likely to be single, less likely to have completed college and have somewhat lower annual household incomes.
- The naysayers also have bigger travel budgets, and report they expect to spend 17 percent more on leisure travel in the upcoming year than those who find legalization makes a place more appealing.
- Yet people who approve of pot travel more. Those finding legal marijuana appealing took an average of 4.6 leisure trips in the past year. Travelers who find the practice unappealing took only 4.1 trips.
If you’ve worked with us, you know that the Destination Analysts team is passionately devoted to helping destination marketers understand the modern traveler. For nearly a decade, every six months we’ve produced our flagship domestic study, The State of the American Traveler TM , and have provided it on a complimentary basis to our industry. This research is been widely used and helps our team shape our thinking around the ever-emerging industry topics of the day. With this rapid pace of change in the industry, our sense now is that conducting this study every six months is no longer enough. There are just too many questions floating around and too few answers available to continue on in this format. So, we’re changing course. We’ll still be partnering with our friends at Miles, but will now be conducting the survey every quarter, greatly expanding its potential.
With this good news looking forward, we present to you the first of our quarterly studies, the Destinations Edition. If you’d like to review the summary report, you can download it here. Of course, if you have questions or need extra detail, just call us. Additionally, we also gave a webinar earlier this week in which our President & CEO digs deeper into the edition’s findings. We think you’ll enjoy it.
The State of the American TravelerTM Webinar, March 10th, 2016
If you have questions you would like to have us explore in the next edition, send them to us!
If you’re reading our blog on this beautiful Saint Valentine’s Day, we think you should stop immediately (like 5 seconds ago), step away from your iPhone and go snuggle up with your love connection. Seriously, do it. Our musings on romance and travel can wait. If you’re reading this sometime after the great lover’s holiday, please enjoy these few fun stats for the destination marketer about finding new love and the modern traveler.
Just for the heck of it, we asked a few questions about romance and travel on our soon to be released The State of the American Traveler Survey. The results paint an unexpected picture of Americans hitting the road in search of love.
As it turns out, if you’re an American looking for a new romance on a vacation, we have some discouraging news for you. Your chance of success isn’t all that good. While we may all have secret dreams of “things happening in Vegas that stay in Vegas,” finding a new partner on the road seems to be a little harder than expected. Our survey shows that last year a little over twenty percent of us have left on a vacation in hopes of making a new romantic connection. But, alas, only about one quarter of these impassioned travelers (26.3%) found success in meeting a special someone.
(Travel Activities in the Past 12 Months)
To be blunt, in most of life this success rate would be considered abysmal. If a high school student scores 26 percent on a Calculus test, they fail. Remedial Algebra here we come. In Major League Baseball, a player batting .263 is sent down to the minors, or dumped completely. On Tinder, whose ego would not be bruised if they knew they got only one out of four right swipes?
We don’t mean to take the wind out of your romantic sails, as there is good news in our research. We all know travel is a powerful aphrodisiac, and despite the fact that three out of four traveling romance seekers strike out, serendipity isn’t dead. Coincidental romance still happens, as overall, 13.7 percent of us met a new romantic partner while on the road last year. This means that over 10 percent of those with no expectations at all for travel romance got lucky (with a new person) on the road last year. From a purely numerical standpoint, with hundreds of millions of travelers exploring our great country, we declare this to be very Happy Valentine’s Day news.
As an aside, it should come as no surprise that romance and travel is still, for the most part, the domain of the young. Millennial Generation travelers are nearly three times as likely to meet a new partner on the road as are Baby Boomers.
Where do we go for romance?
Overall, the top destinations we think are romantic are not tremendously surprising. We asked American travelers in an open-ended question (meaning they could write in any answer they wanted) what single American destination was the most romantic. The list of top destinations that emerged is sprinkled with fabulous cities and traditional honeymoon spots. The top twelve destinations are shown below.
Who wouldn’t get lost in the romantic possibilities of any of these fantastic places? Wherever we go looking for love, though, hope does spring eternal; and travel romance can be a new start as well as a cure for a bad relationship. Amazingly, nearly one fifth of American travelers (17.2%) took a leisure trip “specifically to get away from someone” last year. While some may find this unsettling, to the hopeful romantics here at Destination Analysts, this only confirms the old folk wisdom that you don’t need magic to disappear, just a destination.
Check out our new Destination Analysts adventure video made by Bogdan and the team at IRIS Adventures! As we braved the rugged challenges in Golden Gate Park, we refined our communication skills and enhanced our invidual strengths. It was a memorable day and we’re all looking forward to our next teambuilding adventure.
The early 2015 edition of our The State of the American Traveler report is now out. As always, this edition explored several topics relevant to travel marketers and uncovered some fascinating insights about American travelers. One of the most interesting included the types of content that travelers feel is most relevant to their ultimate destination decision.
Long time followers of The State of the American Traveler may recall a similar question asked one year ago. This time, we removed the concept of cost—something most of our destination marketers cannot control–in order to really look at what content motivates the desire to visit. Interestingly, hotel and lodging information still reigns supreme. However, this is closely followed by restaurant and dining information. People are most interested in where they sleep and what they eat when it comes to picking the destination.
1. Skift goes old school. The popular travel industry website Skift is launching a print magazine, scheduled for release in January.
2. Gasoline prices are continuing to fall. In much of the country, the price of gasoline is now below two dollars–and overall it’s down more than a dollar from last year.
3. AAA analysis says that lower gas prices will save consumers $75 billion this year. More money in our pockets means more money spent in our destination’s hotels, restaurants, attractions and shops.
4. American consumer confidence increased in December. The Conference Board reports that we’re feeling the improved job market and our sense of overall economic conditions haven’t been this high since February 2008.
5. Aloha record-breaking year. Hawaii’s tourism industry is reported to be on pace to beat last year’s record performance.
7. Hilton Head and San Francisco hit home runs. Our latest client and our fabulous hometown win a prestigious award.
8. The lodging sector outlook also feels good. Our friends at PKF have released their Lodging Insights: U.S. Lodging Industry Forecast for 2015. Take a watch.
9. It turns out the tourism industry worldwide is big. Really big. The World Travel and Tourism Council reports that the travel industry’s total contribution to the global economy rose to $6,990 billion, or 9.5% of the GDP. It is expected to jump up by 4.3% to $7,289 billion, or 9.6% of the GDP for 2014.
On a recent business trip to Alaska, we had lunch with a local entrepreneur whose very first business as a teenager was dog-sitting for tourists while they took day trip sightseeing cruises. These travelers couldn’t exactly leave their dogs in their hotel or cars for the day, so they were in a pickle. Neglect their beloved family member or forego one of the pinnacles of the Alaska visitor experience. Our new friend saw a market for doggy day care and, for a few bucks, took care of his town’s tourist dogs while their families were at sea.
We’re telling you this story to draw attention to a market many DMOs may not be aware of and we’ll give you a word to the wise. Destinations should not forget visitors traveling with man’s best friend. While our impulse might be to simply add a “pet-friendly amenities” check box to hotel listings and move on, that would be a mistake. As DMOs prepare their ever-changing content strategies, considering the needs of this enthusiastic traveling audience could reap significant rewards.
For several years we’ve been tracking the importance of dog-friendly amenities and destinations to the American public. The results might surprise you. Nearly half of American travelers own a dog and one third of them (33.4%) have taken an overnight leisure trip with Fido in the past twelve months. When we do the math, it tells us that about 30 million Americans will hit the road this year for an overnight trip with their dogs.
Having dog-friendly accommodations and activities is critically important to them, and they will be looking to you, the DMO, for advice. Just for fun, here are a few stats from our most recent State of the American TravelerTM study to drive this point home.
Question: How important are pet-friendly policies and amenities to how you generally select your leisure travel accommodations (hotels, motels, etc?)
Source: State of the American Traveler, July 2014. Base: American travelers who took an overnight leisure trip with their dog in the past year.
Source: State of the American Traveler, July 2014. Base: American travelers who took an overnight leisure trip with their dog in the past year.
Clearly, this audience will be demanding content that allows them to pick pet-friendly accommodations (is the check box really enough?) They will also be looking for pet-friendly destinations in which to spend their money. And dog-centric information is really important to them. But what’s a DMO to do? We suggest considering some professional advice. So, we reached out to our friends at dogtrekker.com and spoke with co-founder Dave Kendrick, about the market and what DMOs should consider.
A few snippets from the conversation follow:
DA: Tell us a little about DogTrekker. What’s it all about?
DK: Well, we launched DogTrekker.com in 2011. It’s a collaboration of dog lovers who wanted to share what they’ve learned during their equivalent of 200 years of on-the-road and on-the-trail adventures. Based upon their 4-Paw Promise to research local and accurate dog-friendly lodging, chow, hikes, splash zones, attractions and local services; provide engaging content written by veteran travel writers; and demonstrate a strong commitment to local animal welfare groups.
DA: How big has DogTrekker.com become?
DK: DogTrekker.com has become the go-to resource for hundreds of thousands of California dog owners. Prior to DogTrekker.com, there was no way for dog owners to know just how ‘dog-friendly’ a lodging property was. For a hotel or motel, dog-friendly is way beyond putting the check in the ‘pet-friendly’ box and a picture of a dog on their site. Hotels with large numbers of breed restrictions, limited size limits, high dog fees, misleading information on their site and untrained desk personnel fall more into the ‘dog-tolerant’ to ‘dog-unfriendly’ categories and are not listed on the site.
DA: How important is this to travelers?
DK: Well, your own research that shows nearly 48% of dog travelers find a poor selection of truly pet-friendly hotels, 80% say hotel polices and dog-friendly amenities are important when choosing a property and nearly 50% are turned off due to high pet fees. Survey after survey shows that the majority of dog owners feel that their four-legged buddies are an important part of the family and as such, want them to be treated equally or even better than they are when traveling. We see it every trip we take with Kayla, the joy she feels when the lodging property or attraction staff goes out of their way to provide a warm and heartfelt welcome. At DogTrekker.com we measure it in ‘wags per mile.’
DA: Do hotels get it? Are they becoming more dog-friendly?
DK: I mentioned the problems, but on the other side of the leash, you have Kimpton, Loews and Joie de Vivre, Best Western Plus, La Quinta and many more hotel groups who go out of their way to welcome dogs. With clear, concise policies, superior training of the staff, providing fun and safe dog amenities and a desire to treat the four-legged guests with the same level of respect and courtesy as their 2-legged uprights, these hotel groups are considered by DogTrekker.com to be ‘dog-passionate.’
DA: Why should DMOs be interested in DogTrekker?
DK: We have many DMOs working with us now. In fact, many of California’s destination marketing organizations are Paw-of-Approval partners of DogTrekker.com, collaborating on ways to make their destinations as welcoming and dog-passionate as they can be.
DA: Thanks, Dave.
As you think about the dog-traveling market, we suggest you give DogTrekker a look. They have a wealth of fun content and expertise that could be of value to your destination’s content development plans. Dog Trekker is one of our favorite industry partners, and we strongly encourage our friends in the industry to reach out to them.
I really love my job. One of the most rewarding parts of my work is helping clients show their communities and stakeholders that they’ve made good use of their funding by providing a positive return on investment. As many of you know, our philosophy at Destination Analysts is to always provide our clients with the most conservative, bullet-proof, state-of-the-art methodologies to measure their marketing programs’ return on investment (ROI). This approach comes from the many years we spent developing such research techniques for the San Francisco CVB. Years of presenting ROI estimates to skeptical boards of directors and politicians taught us some very important lessons. As a result, we carefully build our economic impact models, and whenever assumptions are made, we take the most conservative path possible.
We recently had the chance to apply this way of thinking and conduct some very interesting advertising effectiveness research for our award-winning friends at the Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau (CACVB). If you’re not familiar with this organization’s work, I’d strongly suggest looking at their ideas and practices. They’re simply an outstanding team of talented marketers, and they’ve hit a home run with their recent advertising campaign.
If you’re interested in learning more about research measuring Charlottesville’s success, check out the press release they sent out yesterday. It’s well written and is a good model for how a DMO can showcase their results in an effective, easy-to-understand way.
Charlottesville Albemarle Convention & Visitors Bureau Advertising in DC Marketplace Yields Positive Economic Impact to Local Area
CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA–(Marketwired – December 10, 2014) – The Charlottesville Albemarle Convention and Visitors Bureau (CACVB) has announced the results of an advertising effectiveness study that shows its advertising and marketing in the Washington, DC metro area has produced significant economic impact to the Charlottesville-Albemarle area.
Destination Analysts, working with the CACVB and through its website management company, Simpleview, completed the “2013-2014 Advertising Effectiveness & ROI Study” to gauge the success of the organization’s recent marketing campaign. The study indicates that more than 23,600 incremental trips to the Charlottesville area were taken by Washington, DC metro area residents as a result of being exposed to one or more ads. These trips resulted in nearly $25 million being spent by visitors in our destination.