Annual visitation to the U.S. began to decline in 2015 – and has yet to stop. Concurrently, Americans are traveling less frequently and are returning to attractions less and less – often in search of something new and welcoming. The results of PGAV’s fourth-annual Voice of the Visitor: Outlook on the Attractions Industry, which tracks Americans’ travel behavior and forecasts future plans, revealed a dramatic shift in the demographics of attraction visitors, and a deep desire to visit places that make them feel welcome and relaxed.
In the first ever report of its kind, Welcome! 2019 Profile of International Visitors to America, revealed how travelers from Canada, Mexico, China, the United Kingdom, and Japan plan their trips to America, where they want to visit and what motivates them to do so, and why many have considered a visit to the States – but are holding off until later. 68% of panelists had visited the United States before; but with the exception of Canada, the other four countries have more than a third of their population that has never visited the USA, but are strongly considering it.
Over 85% of international guests noted their key priority when visiting America is finding a safe and welcoming place that has a variety of activities and attractions, visiting more than two towns on average with each visit.
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“Over the last several years, from the US Council of Mayors to the American Alliance of Museums to the Southeast Tourism Society and beyond, we’ve heard impassioned requests for insights into what international visitors think and what they’re doing when they enter The Melting Pot; and to date, we couldn’t find a precedent,” said PGAV Principal and Chair, Mike Konzen. “These visitors represent an immense contribution to our economy and share of the tourism industry – and in turn represent America when they return home through their stories and photographs – and it’s imperative we strive to better understand – and welcome – these guests.”
Top Five Motivators for International Travelers
- 42%: Shopping
- 27%: Theme Parks
- 18%: Historic Landmarks
- 10%: Museums
- 10%: Sightseeing Tours
Top 10 Places Likely to Inspire a Visit to America
- 36%: Walt Disney World
- 26%: Disneyland
- 24%: The Grand Canyon
- 21%: Statue of Liberty
- 21%: New York City
- 20%: Niagara Falls
- 19%: Las Vegas
- 19%: Universal Studios
- 16%: Hollywood
- 14%: The Northern Lights
America is on track to become “minority white” by 2045, with our Hispanic population projected to make up a quarter of the population, Blacks at 13%, Asians at 8%, and Multi-racial families at 3.8%. However, compared to the current racial majority, these groups are eight percentage points less likely to travel for leisure, seven percentage points less satisfied with their last attraction experience, eleven percentage points less likely to recommend that attraction to friends or family, and are five percentage points less likely to travel in 2019.
When Americans travel, trends suggest that they are seeking more peaceful time with friends and family to relax. Compared to five years ago, Americans note that they are “relaxing and chilling out” 27% more, playing video games 10% less, spending time outdoors 16% more, and hanging out with friends 5% less.
With more options for entertainment, consumers’ tolerance for bad service and low-fidelity experiences continues to decline, fueling dissatisfaction with the staff and offerings at many attractions. If these numbers and feedback are any indication, the attractions industry is due for a significant brand overhaul.
Top 10 Attraction Types Visited in 2018
- 38%: Historic Landmarks
- 33%: Zoos/Animal Attractions
- 30%: Theaters
- 30%: Theme Parks
- 28%: History Museums
- 27%: National/State Parks
- 24%: Aquariums
- 22%: Family Entertainment Centers
- 21%: Art Museums
- 21%: Sightseeing Tours
Top Five Most Important Factors for American Tourists
- 79%: It’s a good value for the money
- 78%: It’s a clean place to visit
- 71%: It has friendly staff members
- 70%: It provides a safe and wholesome environment
- 69%: It’s a diverse experience with a lot of different things to see and do
“I was amazed how accurately PGAV’s Voice of the Visitor was able to forecast the upcoming trends of our visitor behavior,” says Beth Hill, President and CEO of Fort Ticonderoga. “The report is my go-to resource to aid in my annual planning, helping to better anticipate guests’ interests and needs, and crafting life-changing experiences that help inspire a passion for the Nation’s history.”