Visit Florida

Published on Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Study shows tourists increasingly want feel-good experiences

When Forbes Travelers put out its list of the 30 Most Visited US cities, three winners were sunny climates, Texas and Disney.

But a few surprises popped up, too, such as Charlotte, which with more than 16 million visitors outranked Fort Lauderdale.

But the list also revealed some changing destination attitudes that anyone in the tourism business should know about.

Dan Erkkila, former Chairman of the Board of the Travel and Tourism Research Association and a professor at the University of Minnesota Tourism Center, explains that “being a member of the top-tier US destination elite generally involves a complex blend of tangible ingredients (like travel cost) and intangible ones, like destination image.”

That image, Mr Erkkila said, is becoming more and more important to a city’s appeal. “Natural features like the Grand Canyon or cultural icons like the Statue of Liberty will always draw the crowds,” he said. He added:

“But more and more, the marketing of destinations is now more about how a destination will make you ‘feel’ when you visit. It is about the whole experience. It’s about how it changes you.”

So rather than visitors going to Las Vegas to gamble or see entertaining shows, it’s about how being there makes them feel. They get act as they wish and let their hair down, because as the popular slogan says, “whatever you do there, stays there!”

Christopher Pike, a senior consultant with Global Insight, a market analysis firm, agrees that image plays a substantial role in U.S. cities’ tourist appeal.

The most visited cities, he said, are “constantly reinventing their destination, whether it’s the new hotels in Vegas, the international flavor in New York City — there is always something new going on.”


The top city in Forbes’ poll was Las Vegas, followed by Los Angeles, Orlando, New York City, Chicago, Washington, DC, Atlanta, San Diego, Houston and Dallas.

Report by David Wilkening

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