NASAA Notes: March 2009


March issue
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March 9, 2009

Did You Know?

Cultural Heritage Declines Predicted in Tourism Market

The State of the American Traveler

Every six months, Destination Analysts—a travel and tourism-focused market research firm—conducts and releases the findings of its State of the American Traveler Survey. In the Fall 2008 edition of Cultural Heritage Tourism News, David Bratton of Destination Analysts reports that 70.3% of all American leisure travelers participated in at least one aspect of cultural heritage tourism in the past year. This figure, from the July 2008 State of the American Traveler survey, outpaces the number of Americans who visited friends or relatives (64.7%) and roughly equals the proportion (73.0%) of travelers staying in a paid lodging.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation defines cultural heritage tourism as “travel to experience the places, artifacts and activities that authentically represent the stories and people of the past and present, including cultural, historic and natural resources.” This broad definition encompasses a wide array of travel activities. For its purposes the State of the American Traveler Survey says that travelers who engage in cultural heritage tourism have, in the past year, visited or attended:

Participation in Cultural Heritage
Tourism Activities(% participating at least once in past 12 months while on a leisure trip)
Visit an historical attraction 40.3%
Visit a state or local park 29.1%
Drive a designated scenic byway 24.1%
Visit an art gallery or museum 21.8%
Visit a national park 21.2%
Attend a concert, play or musical 20.4%
Visit a national forest 12.6%
Visit an ethnic heritage site 9.8%
Visit an ecological site 8.0%
Any heritage travel activity 70.3%
Source: State of the American Traveler Survey, July 2008
  • historical attractions;
  • state, local or national parks;
  • art galleries or museums;
  • concerts, plays or musicals; or
  • ethnic or ecological heritage sites.

While historical attractions are the most popular cultural heritage tourism activity, visiting art galleries or museums and attending a concert, play or musical are each enjoyed by one in five travelers.

The January 2009 State of the American Traveler Survey shows that the average number of leisure trips Americans take each year is decreasing. It also states that future travel expectations and spending expectations of leisure travelers show continued decline, primarily due to personal financial reasons and the price of gasoline. This could present many short-term challenges for cultural heritage tourism attractions and related businesses. A source for optimism is that an increase in short-haul travel, or travel closer to home, might offset long-haul leisure travel. This can be seen in the increasing popularity of “staycations” or vacations taken at home.

Sources: Bratton, David. “The Cultural Heritage Tourism Outlook: Facing Challenging Times.” Cultural Heritage Tourism News, Fall 2008.

Destination Analysts, Inc. State of the American Traveler Survey, January 2009 & July 2008.