NASAA Notes: January 2010


January issue
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January 12, 2010

Cultural and Heritage Travel Contributes More Than $192 Billion Annually to the U.S. Economy

A recent research study conducted for the U.S Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Commerce, reveals that 78% of all U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural and/or heritage activities while traveling. This figure translates to 118.3 million adults each year. Cultural and heritage travelers spend an average of $994 per trip and contribute more than $192 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

The study, conducted by Mandala Research and sponsored by Heritage Travel, a subsidiary of the National Trust for Historic Preservation, is the first to segment cultural and/or heritage travelers, showing that diverse groups exist within this broader category of traveler. The segmentation analysis uncovered five different types of cultural and heritage travelers: passionate, well rounded, aspirational, self-guided, and keeping it light. Three segments—passionate, well-rounded, and self-guided—were more serious about their travels and said that cultural and heritage activities had a greater impact on their destination choice. Together, these three segments represent 51% of all cultural and heritage travelers and account for nearly 65% of the money that heritage and cultural tourism contribute to the U.S. economy.

The study revealed that cultural and heritage travelers as a whole are more frequent travelers, reporting an average of 5.01 leisure trips in the past 12 months, versus noncultural/heritage travelers, with 3.98 trips. More than half of cultural/heritage travelers agree that they prefer their leisure travel to be educational and nearly half said they spend more money on cultural and heritage activities. They are also likely to travel farther to get the experiences they seek: about half of most recent overnight leisure trips were 500 miles or more from home. More than a third said they traveled between 100 and 300 miles for a day trip.

The study found that cultural and heritage travelers 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. Other cultural and heritage activities identified by travelers include visiting historic sites (66%); attending historical reenactments (64%); visiting art museums/galleries (54%); attending an art/craft fair or festival (45%); attending a professional dance performance (44%); visiting state/national parks (41%); shopping in museum stores (32%); and exploring urban neighborhoods (30%). The vast majority of these travelers (65%) say that they seek travel experiences where the “destination, its buildings and surroundings have retained their historic character.”

For more information about this study, contact Mandala Research. For additional information about the sponsors and partners of this study, click on the links below:

U.S Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing CouncilGoziac/Heritage TravelU.S. Department of Commerce



To learn more about state arts agencies and cultural and heritage tourism, visit NASAA’s Cultural Tourism Resources page. Here we provide links to data, resources and information about cultural tourism programs and initiatives.

If you would like to talk to a NASAA staff person about cultural heritage tourism, contact Jesse Rye.