More than three-quarters of all people traveling on leisure journeys within the United States take part in cultural and/or heritage activities while doing so...

More than three-quarters of all people traveling on leisure journeys within the United States take part in cultural and/or heritage activities while doing so and contribute nearly $200 billion to the U.S. economy each year.

Many of those travelers seek experiences that specifically have to do with history and tradition, a recent research study finds.


The study, performed for the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council, reveals that 78 per cent of all U.S. leisure travelers participate in cultural and/or heritage activities while traveling, translating to 118.3 million adults each year. With cultural and heritage travelers spending an average of $994 per trip, they contribute more than $192 billion annually to the U.S. economy.

“We discovered that an impressive number of U.S. travelers seek out cultural and heritage experiences,” says Helen Marano, director, Office of Travel and Tourism Industries, U.S. Department of Commerce. “With 78 per cent of all domestic leisure travelers participating in cultural and heritage activities, their expenditures confirm that this is a strong market, and they are contributing significantly to our communities during these challenging economic times.”

The study is the first in the U.S. to segment cultural and/or heritage travelers, showing the diverse groups that exist within this broader category of traveler. The study’s segmentation analysis identified 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 travelers ― 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 40 per cent of all leisure travelers and contribute nearly $124 billion to the U.S. economy.

This is the historic Cabin Run Covered Bridge, in the Greater Philadelphia area. Photo by B. Krist for Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation

This is the historic Cabin Run Covered Bridge, in the Greater Philadelphia area. Photo by B. Krist for Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation

Cultural and heritage travelers as a whole are more frequent travelers, according to the study, reporting an average of 5.01 leisure trips in the past 12 months. They are more frequent business travelers and more likely to have taken an international trip in the past 12 months than their non-cultural/heritage counterparts. 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 say 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 per cent); attending historical re-enactments (64 per cent); visiting art museums/galleries (54 per cent); attending an art/craft fair or festival (45 per cent); attending a professional dance performance (44 per cent); visiting state/national parks (41 per cent); shopping in museum stores (32 per cent); and exploring urban neighborhoods (30 per cent).

Nearly two-thirds of these travelers (65 per cent) say that they seek travel experiences where the “destination, its buildings and surroundings have retained their historic character”.

The study was conducted by Mandala Research for the U.S. Cultural & Heritage Tourism Marketing Council, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Commerce. Heritage Travel, Inc., a subsidiary of The National Trust for Historic Preservation, and its website www.gozaic.com was lead sponsor of the study.

For more information about the study or to purchase the report, contact Laura Mandala at laura@mandalaresearch.com or 703.798.5452.

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