Many years ago domestic leisure travel transcended travel for business purposes (including conventions and meetings) for trips taken in the U.S. The breakdown is now 78% leisure and 22% business (including 10% conventions and meeting.)
There are some interesting facts in last month’s bi-annual tracking snapshot of leisure travelers by Destination Analytics, Inc. regarding Americans who take trips of at least 100 miles round trip.
Interestingly, nearly 34% take in historical places and museums compared to 24.8% who visit a state or local park, 20.2% who visit art galleries/museums, 18.2% who attend a concert, play or musical and 17.4% who attend a sporting event.
All of these and many others transcend the percentage of overall travelers who attend conventions. This is just one reason that destination communities must seek diversity of appeal as they evolve, while staying true to their unique sense of place and organic placed-based assets.
This also illustrates why a community’s destination marketing arm (DMO) must focus on branding the overall destination for visitor-centric economic and cultural development and resist being hijacked by any of number of entities that always seem to believe their type of business or facility deserves favored treatment.
More than 72% of leisure travelers use a mobile device for travel information during their trips and 23.3% already use tablets such as the iPad. Surprisingly 49% still take along a laptop.
The average leisure traveler takes 4.6 trips. Nearly 6 in 10 trips are day-trips compared to 50% of overall travel so it is incredulous why any community would tolerate a DMO that is still only focused on overnight stays if serious about reaping a full share of benefits from visitation.
Similarly, leisure travelers average only 1.1 trips by air each year so DMOs and communities that focus disproportionately on airports as the mode of arrival are likely to never reap their community’s full potential of visitor-centric economic and cultural development. They are also likely to undervalue the importance of gateways and wayfinding signage.
A key part of a DMO’s role is to get a destination on the list for consideration by travelers. But according to the study, more than 5 out of every 10 leisure travelers also rely on a combination of DMO resources both prior to and during a trip including website, print publication and destination-specific mobile site/app.
The vast majority of leisure trips are less than three days so it is crucial that these resources are designed to encourage and empower future return visits.
Forward-thinking DMOs long ago began to measure all visitors rather than just those who travel at least 50 miles to their destination. As more do, organizations such as Destination Analysts, Inc. will be able to broaden The State of the American Traveler.
Until then, overview such as this are invaluable for benchmarks against which to compare destination-specific results.