It’s a common question for travelers. For aspirational Millennials and big-spending Boomers, it can be the key question. We like recommendations. Studies show we prefer them from our friends and trusted sources. This familiarity is especially key as more and more sites – often sites with no other content in the travel realm – are posting click-baity stories to get some of the link-juicy “Things to do” headline traffic. Finding a good lead on your own can take a lot of research.
A recent study about travel trends by Ipsos Public Affairs and Livability.com shows just how steep of a hill some areas have to climb. The survey asked more than 2,000 adults about the places they’ve lived, visited and aspire to visit. The report provides great stats for CVBs and tourism offices to show the purse-holders demonstrating the need for more, well-planned marketing.
In a world where familiarization is king, the typical American has only visited 12 states and no state has been visited by the majority of Americans. Florida comes closest with 48% having reported travelling to the sunshine state.
Some key take-aways:
- We dream of exotic vacations. Hawaii is the state most want to visit with 30% of Americans saying it’s a desired destination (Millennials are the leading age group). Alaska follows closely behind.
- A quarter of Boomers (55+) have essentially seen what they want to see of our nation and say there are no new states they still want to visit.
- Only three states (Florida, California and New York) have at least been seen by a majority of Americans (who have either visited or lived there)
We are a travel-hungry nation but our ambitions are concentrated in a handful of markets. The majority of states are so low on the agenda that fewer than 5% of respondents to the Livability/Ipsos survey rate them on highly on their dream lists. Only five states (Hawaii, Alaska, California, Colorado and New York) and Puerto Rico appeared at the top of the lists of more than 10% of trip-takers. Considering that Hawaii and Alaska are among the least actually-visited, it’s safe to assume our California dreams are most likely to come true.
The study finds that eight states have been visited by fewer than 15% of domestic travelers. A similar study from 1988 found much more familiarity with a much greater number of states. So it appears there is a bifurcation in travel destinations with the haves having more and more than the have-nots. Just one example is Bonnaroo, the long-standing music festival in middle Tennessee drawing its lowest attendance ever as Lollapalooza in Chicago expands to four days and sells every ticket.
What’s the big take-away for destination marketers?
If your market doesn’t have a Disney attraction you’ve got your work cut out for you. For most markets, there’s a non-zero, but not high level of both awareness and desire to visit. You’re going to have to invest more than your heavily-trafficked counterparts like New York City and Las Vegas – which are both markets that invest heavily anyway.
It’s not that it’s impossible, it just takes a consistent, pro-active effort to move to the top of the search engine ranks. Marketing needs to be spread across every possible channel and technique: Social; content marketing; traditional advertising in print, digital, etc. Budgets are tight, but the right partnerships and sponsorship models can help. Perhaps most important is efforts to create familiarization in markets where there isn’t much. Fam tours an obvious starting point. Content marketing efforts should aim at creating more quality and authoritative story-telling about your market’s strengths.
Familiarization should be an important goal and metric for tracking – across all demographics. Another interesting finding from the survey is that there’s very little difference in the travel preferences based on marital status or by race and ethnicity. The exceptions are Hawaii which is slightly preferred by minority travelers and non-married travelers and Alaska which was more preferred by Whites. Wider differences can be found when looking at income and employment status. For instance, those employed full-time were twice as likely (10%) to say they want to visit Washington state than those who are retired.
The full report can be found at livability.com with some quick stats ready to be pasted into your next presentation deck. They’ll give you a good baseline as you continue your efforts to move that needle so that the next time someone asks a friend (or Google) about best places to grab a beer or go for a hike in your state they’ll have some great answers to share.