If your organization needs to develop a case for cultural tourism, consider developing a tourism message in the early stages of planning. Key messages are clear and consistent statements about the tourism industry, travelers and their habits, and who the cultural visitors are. These messages are an important way to build understanding and motivate people. Your organization will need to identify the key messages that are meaningful to your organization and community, as well as the audiences that you are targeting. These are the vehicles that will help you to get your tourism message to your audiences. Use the following information to build your tourism message 
see  Sample Tourism Message

How big is the tourism industry?

Tourism is America’s largest service export:

  • International travelers spend $91.1 billion in the U.S.
  • An $8.6 billion trade surplus for the U.S. is generated by this spending.
  • The average overseas visitor to the U.S. spends $1,647, with an average trip of 15.6 nights.

Tourism is one of America’s largest employers:

  • Tourism directly employs 7.9 million people.
  • Tourism indirectly employs 9.4 million people.
  • Total tourism employment is 18 million people.
  • Travel related payroll is $174 billion.

Tourism is America’s third-largest retail sales industry:

  • $537.2 billion in total expenditures
  • $98.7 billion in tax revenue for federal, state and local governments
  • American travelers in the U.S. spend $1.5 billion a day, $61 million an hour and $1 million a minute on travel and tourism

What do travelers do?

The top ten activities of U.S. residents and overseas visitors:


Activities U.S. (2001) Overseas (2000)
Shopping 34% 87%
Outdoor Recreation 17% NA
Historical Places/Museums 14% 31.2%
Beaches 11% 23%
Cultural Events 10% 19.6%
National/State Parks 10% 19.6%
Theme/Amusement Parks 7% 31.4%
Nightlife/Dancing 8% NA
Gambling 8% NA
Sports Events 6% NA

What are the current trends in tourism?

In response to current economic, social and political realities…

  • American travelers are choosing more rural and out-of-the-way destinations, focusing in part on cultural, historic and natural resources.
  • Domestic travelers are taking more trips closer to home and the average leisure trip is 3.4 nights.
  • Travel expenditures declined for the first time since TIA began tracking such data in the 1970s, falling 5.8 percent in 2001.
  • The U.S. share of worldwide tourism has fallen 30 percent between 1992 and 2001. IIn. 2001 alone, international arrivals to the U.S. declined from 50.9 million to 45.5 million.
  • By the year 2020, tourism will be the world’s largest industry.

Cultural Visitor Profile

A growing number of visitors rank the arts, heritage and/or other cultural activities as one of the top five reasons for traveling. They are known as cultural tourists.

How many cultural tourists are there?
Nearly 118.1 million American adults say they included at least one of fifteen arts, humanities, historic or heritage activities or events while traveling in 2002. This equates to more than half of the U.S. adult population (56%). One quarter of these cultural travelers take three or more of these trips per year. In fact, historic/cultural travel volume is up 13 percent from 1996, increasing from 192.4 million person-trips to 216.8 million person-trips in 2002.

What do we mean by cultural heritage tourism?
Cultural heritage tourism is based on the variety of places, traditions, art forms, celebrations and experiences that portray this nation and its people, reflecting the diversity and character of the United States. Travelers who engage in cultural tourism activities visit the following:

  • art galleries, theaters and museums
  • historic sites, communities or landmarks
  • cultural events, festivals and fairs
  • ethnic communities and neighborhoods
  • architectural and archaeological treasures

Thirty percent or 35.3 million adults say that a specific arts, cultural or heritage event or activity influenced their choice of destination. In fact, many travelers will extend their stay because of an arts, cultural or heritage event or activity.

Who are the cultural travelers?
Most cultural travelers want to enrich their lives with new travel experiences. This is particularly true among those aged 18-34, where 75 percent of this age group agreed that trips where they can learn something new are more memorable to them.

  • The demographic profile of the cultural heritage travel segment today is younger, wealthier, more educated and more technologically savvy.
  • Those between the age of 18 –34 are more apt than travelers aged 55 and above to agree that trips where they can learn something new are more memorable to them (75% vs. 63%).
  • Households headed by Baby Boomers (ages 35-54) are most likely (41%) to participate in these activities.

How do cultural travelers compare to all U.S. travelers?
Eighty-one percent of the 146.4 million U.S. adults who took a trip of 50 miles or more away from home in the past year can be considered cultural tourists. Given this large volume of travelers, cultural/heritage tourism generates millions of dollars for destination communities in spending on shopping, food, lodging and other expenses.

Top Ten States Visited by Cultural/Historic Travelers in 2002:

1) California         6) Virginia

2) Texas          7) Illinois

3) New York         8) Tennessee

4) Florida          9) North Carolina

5) Pennsylvania  10) Georgia

30 Million U.S. Travelers Lengthen Their Trips Because of Culture

In 2000, Partners in Tourism commissioned the Travel Industry Association of America to add a series of questions to its January 2001 National Travel Survey. The purpose was to determine the length of time that travelers extend their trips because of cultural activities or events. This study underscores the importance of arts and culture as an effective product for tourism professionals to market.

92.7 Million Travelers Included Culture on their Trip
Two-thirds (65 percent) of American adult travelers say they included a cultural, arts, heritage, or historic activity or event while on a trip of 50 miles or more, one-way, in the past year. This equates to 92.7 million cultural travelers.

Visiting a historic site such as a building, battlefield, or historic community, remains as the most popular cultural activity with four in ten (43 percent) adult travelers participating in this activity while on a trip in the past year.

Museums are also popular with travelers, with 30 percent including this activity during the past year. Other cultural activities Americans enjoy while on trips away from home include live theater (23 percent), art galleries (21 percent), heritage or ethnic festivals (20 percent), and music concerts (19 percent).

29.6 Million Travelers Lengthened their Trip Because of Cultural Events and Activities
Of the 92.7 million adults who included a cultural event on their trip, 32 percent (29.6 million travelers) added extra time to their trip because of a cultural, arts, heritage, or historic activity or event. This includes those who added time either when they were planning the trip or while on the trip. Of those 29.6 million travelers who added time:

  • 43 percent added part of one day
  • 31 percent added one extra night
  • 19 percent added two extra nights
  • 7 percent added three or more extra nights because of this activity or event.

Travelers who include cultural events on their trips differ from other U.S. travelers in a number of ways. They are more likely to:

  • Have annual household incomes over $50,000: 46 percent vs. 40 percent
  • Have completed college: 33 percent vs. 28 percent

They also share similarities to other travelers:

  • 56 percent are married
  • 40 percent are Baby Boomers
  • 36 percent have children under 18

Adapted from
Travel Industry of America Tourism Works for America 2002 Report
Americans for the Arts 30 Million U.S. Travelers Lengthen Their Trips Because of Culture
Travel Industry Association of America TravelScope survey 2003