Western travelers top the nation in the number of trips they take,
how much they spend on travel, their use of travel agents and their
economic outlooks for the year ahead.
About 70 percent of consumers in the West said they took at
least one trip in the past year, nearly on par with 2000 travel
levels and significantly higher than the 63 percent average in the
Rest, according to a recent survey.
Travelers in the West also spent more on their trips than
travelers in the Rest, had more vacation time to travel, and nearly
50 percent said they believe their financial positions will improve
in the year ahead.
The findings offer insight into the lucrative Western travel
market, suggesting the region has fared relatively better than the
Rest during the recent downturn and that growing consumer
purchasing power could fuel stronger growth in the travel industry
“There is a more educated workforce in the West, with higher
earnings, and they are more sophisticated,” said Bruce B. Tepper,
vice president of Joselyn, Tepper & Associates. “Of course it
depends on where you are. But there is more worldliness in the
The demographic insights also dovetail with the American Express
Leisure Travel Index released in October that found travelers in
the West expect to travel more next year and spend more on their
trips than travelers in other areas.
The survey for Northstar Travel Media by NFO Plog Research also
found that travelers in the West were most likely to use travel
agents, and that those who used agents took more business and
leisure trips and spent more on those trips.
The demographics of Western travelers offers increased economic
potential for agents and others in the industry who can
successfully tap into the unique characteristics and tailor
targeted offerings to those tastes as travel begins to pick up.
Savvy agents and others could benefit from destination trends:
At the top of the list of states Western travelers said they plan
to visit within the next three years were California, Nevada,
Hawaii, Washington and Texas.
And leisure travelers who used agents were more likely to visit
multiple destinations: About a quarter of agent users in the West
said they had visited three to four destinations in the last year
compared to 23 percent in the Rest.
Discretionary leisure time trends also offer potential: Close to
a third of Westerners surveyed had 26 or more days of vacation;
only about 26 percent of travelers elsewhere had as many vacation
As well as passport trends: Western travelers were more likely
to carry a passport than travelers elsewhere, and more than half of
the Western travel-agent users said they carried a passport
significantly more than 46 percent elsewhere.
The Business Traveler
Business travelers in the West also offer a potentially more
lucrative market than travelers in the Rest.
The Plog survey found that about 21 percent of Western travelers
made a business trip in the past year, compared to just 17 percent
Business travelers in the West who used agents also traveled
more frequently than those who did not use agents, and traveled
more frequently than business travelers in other states that used
Thirty-eight percent of Western business travelers who used
travel agents took a business trip in the last year, compared to 35
percent of the Rest.
Business travelers in the West who used agents also were more
likely to fly, with about 30 percent choosing airlines for their
travel compared with 21 percent who used ground transportation such
A reason for this, according to some analysts, is the longer
distances between cities in the West than those in the Rest.
But the survey also found that business travelers who did not
use agents, even in the West, were more likely to take ground
The Leisure Traveler
On the leisure side, Western travelers made plenty of trips in
the past year, with about 68 percent saying they took some sort of
vacation and nearly all agent users in the West 99 percent saying
they took a leisure trip in the past year.
Unlike their business-traveler counterparts, however, they were
more likely to drive on vacations.
“We’re, for the most part, more spread out in cities designed
with the automobile in mind,” Tepper said. “We put more miles on
the car and are comfortable with that.”
The survey also found that Western travelers spent more money on
their trips, especially those who used travel agents.
About 21 percent of Western travelers using agents spent more
than $3,000 on leisure trips in the last year; only 9 percent of
Western travelers without agents spent that amount.
Another 13 percent of the agent-users spent more than $4,000 on
vacations, and about 6 percent spent between $5,000 and $7,500.
In other states only about 11 percent spent more than
Barbara Webb, the American Society of Travel Agents’ director
for Oregon and the Pacific Northwest, said the findings may be
reflecting a spending slowdown in the East following Sept. 11.
“West Coast agencies have not been as impacted as much as the
East Coast,” she said. “I think that they are not traveling as far.
They are taking shorter trips than we are doing here. They have
definitely felt the impact more there.”
And Western travelers’ longer leisure trips included more
journeys abroad than among those in the Rest: About 18 percent in
the West made trips out of the country in the last year compared to
13 percent elsewhere.
About 36 percent of travelers in the West who used agents
British Columbia was the most popular international destination
for agent users in the West, followed by France, Cabo, Mexico and
For domestic leisure trips, Western travelers were most likely
to travel in the West. Of the 10 most-visited states in the past
year, all but Florida and Louisiana were in the West.