Health & Wellness Travel. A Cure to the Always-on Lifestyle?

Early to bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy and wise.

— Benjamin Franklin

Ben Franklin understood something we modern folks have forgotten.  Getting ample rest and relaxation is vital to a happy and productive life.  Not only are we a chronically sleep deprived nation, with 40 percent of us getting less than the recommended amount of nightly slumber, our use of vacation time has plummeted in recent years.  The U.S. Travel Association reports that (on average) Americans take only 16 days of vacation a year, one full week less than in 1980.  The list of problems and health risks associated with our “always-on” lifestyle is well-known and includes an array of detrimental effects including heart disease, depression, cognitive impairment, diabetes, anxiety disorders, obesity and even the potential for a dreaded loss of enthusiasm for bedroom fun!

At Destination Analysts, we don’t need research to tell us that this is simply no way to live.  And, possibly in response to this crisis, many Americans now seem to share our concern and are taking their vacation advice from Poor Richard’s Almanac.  Many of us are now building vacation experiences specifically around health and wellness.  In a recent The State of the American TravelerTM survey, we explored Americans’ interests in travel specifically to nurture personal health and wellness.  The results are intriguing, and suggest that destination marketers would be well-advised to keep their eyes on this market and be ready to take advantage when possible.  Consider the chart below.

Health & Wellness Trips Taken (Past 12 Months, American Leisure Travelers)

Question: How many of these leisure trips were focused primarily on trip activities to promote your personal health and wellness? Base: Percent of American Leisure Travelers.

Nearly one quarter of American leisure travelers have taken a “health and wellness” trip in the past year.  However, one such annual trip is simply not enough for many of these travelers.  The average health and wellness traveler took 2.96 such trips in the past year, with one in twenty who took four or more such trips last year.  That’s a lot of trips and likely a lot of money spent.  Health and wellness travel is clearly a very significant and possibly under-serviced niche market.

Interestingly, it seems as if those travelers most in need of health and wellness trips may be the least likely to actually take them, and vice versa.  The graphs below show that Millennial leisure travelers are most likely to have taken at least one health and wellness trip in the past year.  Undoubtedly a result of their relative youth, they are also the least likely generation to report that personal health concerns had kept them from traveling in the past year.  In short, they are twice as likely as Baby Boomers to take health and wellness trips, and half as likely to say they reduced their travels this last year over health concerns.

 

Health & Wellness Trips Taken (Past 12 Months, by Generation)
Reduced # of Leisure Trips Taken for Health Reasons (Past 12 Months, by Generation)
Question: How many of these leisure trips were focused primarily on trip activities to promote your personal health and wellness? Base: Percent of Leisure Travelers.
Question: In the PAST 12 MONTHS, which (if any) of the following kept you from traveling more for leisure than you would have otherwise preferred?  Base: Percent of Leisure Travelers.

Gen X actually looks like it may be a sweet spot for health and wellness travel.  Fully a quarter of American Gen X travelers have taken a wellness trip in the past year and these Gen X wellness travelers have taken 3.6 trips such trips in the past year on average (compared to 2.4 such trips amongst Millennial health and wellness travelers).

What does health and wellness travel really entail?  To find out, we asked survey respondents to tell us what health-related activities they would be interested in doing on their leisure trips.    For the most part, American travelers as a whole are most attracted to better known, relaxation-related activities like massages (36.3%), hot springs (35.5%) and spa treatments (32.2%).  Other health and wellness-oriented activities fell further behind amongst the general traveling public, although younger travelers clearly exhibit more diversity in the health and wellness activities they are enthusiastic for.  The diagram below shows the proportion of leisure travelers in each generation who say they’re interested in an array of health-related activities tested.

Interest in Health & Wellness Activities (Percent of travelers, by generation)

Question:  Which of the following would you be interested in doing on your leisure trips? Base: Percent of Leisure Travelers.

Health and wellness travel clearly represents a very large potential market, but one that appears to be more alluring to Millennial and Gen X travelers.  While surely niche markets exist for other healing activities outside the mainstream, the health and wellness activities these travelers will most commonly desire are likely to revolve around more traditional spa-related ways to reduce stress.  With this focus, we hope that destinations that can position themselves as a unique place to relax and rejuvenate will cash in on those seeking relief from the harried, always-on lifestyle of the American traveler.

Americans are Ready to Travel

According to our latest national survey, American leisure travel expectations hit a new high in October.  While travel expectations have been on a positive, stable trajectory for years now, our Fall The State of the American Traveler national tracking survey recorded a strong upward surge in expectations for leisure travel in the upcoming year.  This optimism is shown by a record 37.4 percent of Americans saying they expect to travel more for leisure in the next year, up from 32.2 percent just 3 months earlier. Leisure travel spending expectations are also similarly high, signaling that prospects for continued growth in this segment are strong.

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)

 

For more detail, download the latest summary report here.
Destination Analysts

Bratton Speaks at HSMAI/DFWATC Forum

Destination Analysts’ Takes on the Dallas Leisure Market

Destination Analysts’ founder recently presented one of our company’s most popular speaking topics to a group of hoteliers and DMO professionals at a joint luncheon hosted by the Hospitality Sales and Marketing Association International and the Dallas Fort Worth Area Tourism Council. Several hundred tourism leaders from the Dallas area were presented new data from Destination Analysts’ The State of the American TravelerTM and The State of the International TravelerTM studies, as well as video interviews of travelers discussing their perceptions of Dallas. A summary of key takeaways follows:

The DFW Metroplex is America’s fourth biggest city. Yet, like many destinations, it suffers from a significant awareness and understanding deficit both domestically and abroad. The situation is shown below, using findings taken from our most recent The State of the American TravelerTM survey–a nationally representative survey of 2,000 domestic leisure travelers. When asked in an unaided question to write in the five domestic destinations they most want to visit in the upcoming year, only 2.3 percent wrote in Dallas. The only other area cities receiving votes were Fort Worth (0.2%) and Arlington (0.1%). These disappointing results are, of course, not commensurate with a great city like Dallas.

 

dallas1

 

What’s beneath this situation? Despite the outstanding efforts of the metro area’s DMOs and the tourism community overall, the Metroplex obviously faces stiff competition from many compelling and well-funded destinations around the country. Obviously, too, the destination’s message hasn’t penetrated deeply into travelers’ awareness. The chart below shows (for numerous destinations) the relationship between destination appeal, perceived traveler familiarity, and likelihood of visitation. The chart shows visually that the more appealing a destination is, the more likely travelers are to say they are likely to visit it. Further, higher levels of familiarity foster both appeal and likelihood to visit. In this perspective, the Metroplex, while outpacing in-state rivals Austin and Houston, sits in the rear-middle of the pack nationally. This is no place for what is undeniably one of the nation’s most unique and vibrant communities. In our view, this dramatically highlights the need for local communities to continue to support (and very importantly fund) the marketing efforts of area destination marketing organizations.

 

dallas2

 

We won’t go into the detailed data in this blog post, but Dallas’ story is the same for international markets. Our The State of the International TravelerTM survey asked 800 likely international travelers in each of 14 major international feeder markets the same set of questions—measuring traveler familiarity, destination appeal and likelihood of visitation. These international results mirror the domestic ones, with Dallas getting relatively low rankings for all three metrics when compared to an array of other U.S. destinations.

The Silver Lining

The DFW Metroplex is a world-class destination, with fantastic attractions, attributes and significant potential. When you’re familiar with the place, it’s hard not to be optimistic about the possibilities. Despite the destination’s challenged current position, our research shows that the area is seen as attractive by a very valuable audience–sophisticated, younger travelers willing to spend money of leisure travel. A segmentation analysis shows that when we compare travelers who say they find Dallas to be an “Appealing” leisure destination to other travelers (i.e., those who do not find the city to be an appealing leisure travel destination) an interesting profile emerges:

American Leisure Travelers who Find Dallas Appealing are:
(Compared to those who don’t find Dallas Appealing)

Demographically different. They are:
More ethnically diverse (69.9% vs. 80.6% Caucasian)
More likely to be Millennials (37% vs. 21.0%)

Frequent Travelers. They:
Took more leisure trips taken in past 12 months (4.8 vs. 4.2 trips)
Are more likely to be international travelers (37% vs. 21% have traveled overseas in the past 12 months)
Have higher travel optimism (44% vs. 31% expect to travel more this year than last)
Are 68% more likely to expect to visit a metropolitan destination this year for leisure reasons

Consume Far More Travel Content When Travel Planning
(% that used each resource to plan a leisure trip in past 12 months)
User-generated content (69% vs. 55%)
Social media (68% vs. 42%)
Online Travel Agencies (40% vs. 27%)
Information gathered from a mobile phone (69% vs. 42%)
A DMO website (50% % vs. 30%)

Bigger Travel Spenders. They have:
Similar incomes, yet…
“Personal financial reasons” constrained their travels less this year (36% vs. 40%)
Expect to spend more this year on leisure travel (44% vs. 31%)
Have 30% larger annual travel budgets ($4,100 on average)

Destination Analysts

American Travel Optimism Soars

The State of the American TravelerTM – April Update

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Oops! If you’ve arrived here via our email, please forgive the glitch in our copy.  If you’re interested in romance and the American traveler, click here.  If not, please just read on to see how American travel optimism is at an all-time high!

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If you’ve been paying attention, you’ll know that the U.S. economy has been throwing off some seriously mixed signals during the early part of this year. The bull market turns into a bear, then reverses itself. First quarter GDP growth weakens, but now seems likely to be revised upward; with many economists now seeing the second half of the year as one of strong growth. Long troublesome exchange rates flip, possibly even hitting an inflection point where the dollar may become a boost to exports. Meanwhile, recent data shows the domestic service sector expanded in April as new orders and employment both jumped.

Whatever happens during the rest of the year, we know that ours is a consumer driven economy. Consumers account for more than 70 percent of spending, and in the moment are surprisingly bullish about their future leisure travel. Our April The State of the American TravelerTM survey shows travelers cheerful mood is clearly ongoing. Our survey tracks traveler intent to travel and spend in the upcoming year. Both measures reached historic levels this month. The chart below show this enthusiasm, as more travelers are planning to take a greater number of trips in the upcoming year.

Travel Optimism Grows to Record Levels
(% of American Leisure Travelers Expecting to Take More Trips in the next 12 Months)1

Not only are American travelers planning to travel more, they’re ready to spend.  As the chart below shows, spending expectations are also sky high.  More than one third (35.5%) of travelers expect to spend more in the upcoming year than they did in the last one–yet another record.

Travel Spending Expectations Up
(% of American Leisure Travelers Expecting to Spend More on Leisure Travel in the next 12 Months)

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As we move into the peak of summer travel season, this optimism bodes very well for the travel industry.  Mixed economic signals or not, American travelers seem primed for an excellent season of exploring our many great destinations.

Roll Another One For the Road

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

pot2

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…) 

pot3

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.
Destination Analysts

The State of the American Traveler, Destinations Edition

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

Webinar Screenshot

If you have questions you would like to have us explore in the next edition, send them to us!

Destination Analysts

Love, American Traveler Style

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.

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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.

Traveler Hook-ups
(Travel Activities in the Past 12 Months)

Romantic vacation

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Most romantic destinations

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Erin Francis-Cummings

American Travelers Just Keep Wanting More

A Travel “Epidemic” Is Here

A strong optimism is pervasive amongst American leisure travelers, suggesting continued good times—or likely even better ones—are in store for the travel industry.  In the latest Destination Analysts’ The State of the American Traveler survey, which tracks traveler sentiment, expectations for near-term leisure travel have soared quite beyond what has been seen in the past nine summers, and may have reached an all-time high.  In typical summer waves of this survey, enthusiasm for travel is muted compared to January.  At this point in the year, travelers have been quite possibly satiated from recent summer adventures, or they might also be in the midst of planning for an impending trip.  Whatever the cause, travel expectations have been invariably lower. However, this July, more than a third (34.3%) of American travelers said they expect to increase the number of leisure trips they will take in the upcoming year. This marks an increase from 31.1 percent in January and significantly above levels seen in previous summer waves of the survey, in which only 29 percent of travelers expected to travel more in the upcoming year.

American travelers are in the mood to spend, too, with spending expectations sky high.   Fully 35 percent of travelers say they expect to spend more on their leisure trips in the coming 12 months. This again breaks with the summer norm, where in the last three years an average of just 29.8 percent of travelers expected to increase their trip spending.

The table below illustrates this upward bounce in American’s demand for increased travel volume and spending.

Recent Historical Perspective
American Leisure Travelers Planning to Travel and Spend More (% All Travelers)
SATS-IMAGE
Source: The State of the American Traveler, Destination Analysts, Inc.

These results fit nicely with national sentiment trends which show that consumers feel significantly better about the economy overall this summer.  The Conference Board recently reported that its index of consumer confidence jumped to 101.4 in June from 94.6 in May.   Nothing drives demand like consumers feeling positive about the economy and their personal economic situation.  This coupled with the increased social value being placed on travel, and the outlook for leisure travel demand in the near term is rosy. The remainder of this year should be a great one for the industry.

Download your copy of the summary The State of the American Traveler report here.

Destination Analysts

Which Content Types Matter Most in the Destination Decision. Plus Other Insights from our Latest The State of the American Traveler Report.

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.

Travel resource usage

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Destination Analysts

Dog Travelers: Thinking Outside the Dog House for Destination Marketers

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?)

dog-1

Source: State of the American Traveler, July 2014. Base: American travelers who took an overnight leisure trip with their dog in the past year.  

 

Question: When you travel with your dog, do you typically choose well-known pet-friendly cities or destinations?
dog-2

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.

Website:  www.dogtrekker.com
Facebook: www.facebook.com/dogtrekker
Twitter:  www.twitter.com/dogtrekker