The State of American Traveler Highlights Segments of Opportunity

Director of Research and Online Marketing
Published 8/23/17
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Download the State of the American Traveler – Travelers Segments Edition 

The third quarterly edition of The State of the American Traveler expands from its past look at different generations of U.S. travelers to look more broadly – and narrowly – at U.S. leisure travelers. The team at Destination Analysts, with whom we have been working for 10 years as the sole sponsor of their State of the American Traveler research report, define and describe six U.S. traveler segments in detail. 

The State of the American Traveler – Traveler Segments Edition features these six traveler segments: 

  1. Baby Boomer vs. Millennials
  2. Parks & Monuments Travelers
  3. Festival & Special Event Travelers
  4. Sporting Event Travelers
  5. Affluent Travelers
  6. DMO Resource Users (users of official DMO websites and/or visitor guides, etc)

Each segment is described in terms of demographics, media use and other characteristics and compared to the general U.S. traveling market or the “opposite” travelers, i.e. those who are not interested in that activity. 

The August 23, 2017, webinar on the Traveler Segments Edition added a seventh traveler segment – an in-depth look at the remarkable characteristics of travelers who decide where to go based on social media and UGC content (about 1/5 of U.S. leisure travelers). These Social Media Decision Maker Travelers are, not surprisingly, highly connected online with friends/family from around the world and are extremely well informed and well-traveled – a type of global traveler who is highly influential in opening up new destinations or activities and influential in shaping what is hot in the travel industry. 

The new report identifies a range of fascinating market insights for almost any destination or tourism marketer to take action on: 

Social Travelers

Social media content and connections are not simply important to Social Media Decision Maker Travelers but are highly influential in other travel segments, especially Sporting and Event Travelers and Festival & Special Event Travelers. For destinations or tourism marketers focused on this type of event or sporting travelers, social media marketing – and, more importantly, empowering your visitors and locals to share their experiences online – is critical. 

Connected in Remote Locations

Contrary to industry angst on the subject, millennials prove to be highly interested in national parks and monuments; but from other State of the American Traveler research (the November 2016 Mobile Edition), we know that younger travelers also yearn to stay connected while traveling and share their experiences on social media. Hence good quality Wi-Fi hotspots in areas with poor mobile coverage remains a significant opportunity for both encouraging visitation and length of stay. Destinations and tourism businesses should work together with their local and state governments and telcos to improve and expand Internet access in selected natural and remote locations

Alternative Accommodation

Peer-to-peer accommodation in private homes and apartments can also be important in expanding visitation in remote locations with limited commercial accommodation, but is also especially important to Sporting and Event Travelers and Festival & Special Event Travelers – increasing the carrying capacity and traveler dispersal of destinations around major or even niche events. AirBnB and other alternative accommodation platforms remain a controversial issue in many destinations, but if challenges of bed tax collection and impact on local rental prices can be resolved, peer-to-peer lodging is a significant opportunity for smart, additional growth in visitor nights. 

Attractive Audience

The research highlights again the compelling characteristics of the almost four out of 10 U.S. leisure travelers who rely on DMO publications and websites. DMO Resource Users are significantly more affluent than the average traveler, spend far more on travel and are more likely to seek out a huge range of activities and adventures including attending events, sports, a national park or theme park while traveling. Contrary to some conventional wisdom, they are also slightly younger than average. That these enthusiastic and experienced travelers use and rely on DMO resources highlights again that the major challenge and barrier for destinations reaching more visitors is lack of awareness.