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Published on Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cultural, heritage travel much bigger than believed

A new study that is the first of its kind confirms that cultural and heritage tourism is “huge -- and bigger than many of us thought in terms of economic impact,” says Caroline Beteta, president and CEO of the California Travel & Tourism Commission.

“Especially noteworthy is that this group is affluent and travels more and further as a whole -- which means they are less impacted by the slow economy than other types of travelers,” she said.

The study, conducted by Mandala Research for the US Cultural & Heritage Tourism (USCHT) Marketing Council, in conjunction with the US Department of Commerce, shows that 78 percent of all US leisure travelers (118.3 million adults) participate in cultural and/or heritage activities while traveling.

They spend an average of US$994 per trip and contribute more than US$192 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

“Aside from their affluence and propensity to travel more in general, what also makes these such high-value customers is that they are more likely to participate in culinary activities, such as sampling artisan food and wines, attending food and wine festivals, visiting farmers' markets, shopping for gourmet foods, and enjoying unique dining experiences as well as fine dining,” Betata said.

Other cultural and heritage activities identified by travelers as among the most popular include visiting historic sites, attending historical re-enactments, visiting art museums/galleries and attending art/craft fairs or festivals

The vast majority of these travelers or more than two-thirds say that they seek travel experiences where the "destination, its buildings and surroundings have retained their historic character."

By David Wilkening

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