A new study, 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. I can tell you as Chair of the U.S. Travel Association that this
is great news for just about every destination in the U.S., as all of us have products
that will appeal to this market. 

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. 

The study, conducted by Mandala
Research for the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism (USCHT) Marketing Council,
in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Commerce,
shows that 78% of all U.S. leisure travelers (118.3 million adults)
participate in cultural and/or heritage activities while traveling, spending an
average of $994 per trip and contributing to more than $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.

Other cultural and heritage activities identified by travelers include
visiting historic sites (66%); attending historical re-enactments (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."

This all means big business for California, which we sorely need right
now. As the President & CEO of the California Travel & Tourism
Commission, I strongly encourage destinations and local governments in the
Golden State to participate in our 6th Annual Cultural and Heritage Tourism
Symposium January 27-29, 2010 in Chico, and help us continue to
better promote existing product and develop new ones.

We bring together many different perspectives – arts,
language, museums, heritage, crafts, public lands, architecture, design, film
and broadcasting, agriculture, as well as economic development and local
government – to develop California cultural and heritage tourism. Some cities
know they might have something they can promote, and don’t know there to start.
Through this annual Symposium, as well as numerous regional workshops
throughout the year, we offers
industry partners educational
forums and opportunities to find partners with the right skills to help share
the work and increase success. 

is growing at our annual symposium, but we believe there are still a lot of
destinations which are not taking development of this market seriously
enough.  In case the study leaves
any doubt to the importance of this market, I’d like to spell it out in state
numbers. According to TNS TravelsAmerica, cultural travelers to California also
spend considerably more than the typical visitor.  In 2008, domestic
visitor parties who included at least one cultural activity during their stay (30
percent of leisure overnight visitors) spent an average of $1,008 on their
trips, while those who didn’t do cultural activities spent an average of $633
per trip.

cultural travelers are also well rounded, with 45 percent going out for fine
dining, 36 percent going to the beach, and 24 percent participating in urban
sightseeing.  According to the U.S.
Department of Commerce, culture and heritage experiences are also very popular
for California’s international travelers. In 2008, 44 percent of California’s
overseas travelers visited historical places during their trips to the US, 36
percent visited small towns, and 35 percent visited national parks.

As you can
see, cultural and heritage tourism is important for California —  not just for big cities, but for
beaches, rural areas and national parks. To help keep our industry strong over
the long haul, it’s critical that we all work together as a state to develop
product and promotions which appeal to this lucrative market. Click here
to find out more about cultural travelers and how you can get involved at our
next Cultural
and Heritage Tourism Symposium.