Skiing Means Fun – And BIG Business!

Family on Chair Lift

Revenue from skiing/snowboarding is big business. According to the National Ski Areas Association, direct spending at U.S. resorts in 2011-2012 was $5.83 billion.  And as the accompanying chart illustrates, visits during the 2011-2012 season were the lowest in ten years.

Colorado is widely regarded as offering some of the best skiing in the country with 30 areas to choose from throughout the western portion of the state, including Vail Mountain which boasts the largest acreage in North America.  But despite its popularity, Colorado ranks only 4th nationally in terms of the number of ski areas behind New York (50), Michigan (42), and Wisconsin (32).

Not surprisingly, skier visits are influenced in large part by the amount of snowfall. The 2011-2012 season suffered from drought conditions in many parts of the country and the impacts were reflected in the number of visits. Conditions improved modestly during the 2012-2013 season, though visits remained below the 10-year average of 57.8 million.

While weather is notoriously unpredictable, extremely wet conditions in the fall of this year, notably in Colorado, give rise to optimism for big snow in the coming season.  Favorable snow conditions and an improving economy translate into increased revenue not only for the resorts themselves, but also for lodging, restaurants, shops and a variety of others located in mountain communities whose businesses are largely dependent upon winter tourism.   


(in millions)
























































* Source: National Ski Areas Association

Travel: What’s it Really Worth?

What’s it worth? Plenty. Aside from facilitating business transactions and transporting families to favorite vacation destinations, it’s a major boon to the economy. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, 2009 total output for travel and tourism had a value of nearly $700 billion. And the number of people traveling has been on the rise since that time.  

Where the Dollars Go:


Expenditure (In Millions)



 Traveler Accommodations  $130,915
 Food services and drinking places  $111,706
 Nondurable PCE commodities other than gasoline 1  $  95,615
 Domestic passenger air transportation services  $  67,210
 Gasoline  $  51,217
 International passenger air transportation services  $  45,404
 Gambling  $  41,365
 Travel arrangement and reservation services  $  34,733
 All other recreation and entertainment  $  16,608
 Other  $104,325
 TOTAL  $699,098

Source: U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis

1. PCE:  Personal Consumption Expenditures





Top Foreign Travelers to USA and Why it Matters


During 2012 alone, 66.97 million foreign travelers came to the United States. Of these, 59.5 million or 89% came from twenty foreign countries. Below are the top 10 countries in order of rank and the percentage of change from the prior year.


CANADA CANADA 22,698,986 +6.4
MEXICO MEXICO 14,509,341 +7.5
JAPAN JAPAN 3,698,073 +13.8
GERMANY GERMANY  1,895,952  +2.9
BRAZIL BRAZIL  1,791,103  +18.8
CHINA CHINA (EXCL H.K.)  1,474,408  +35.3
FRANCE FRANCE  1,455,720  -3.2
SOUTH KOREA SOUTH KOREA  1,251,432  +9.3
U.S. Dept of Commerce



































Considering the impact that foreign travelers have on overall travel spending, successful marketers can utilize this information to help guide their geotargeting efforts in paid search marketing and other strategies. In addition, by recognizing the countries from which foreign clients originate, service providers are in a better position to accommodate the customs and unique cultural preferences of their guests.

For information on the top cities and states visited by foreign travelers, go to

What Do 49% of U.S. Travelers Know That You May Not?

While hotels and motels have traditionally been the lodging option of choice for travelers, recent statistics indicate a growing preference for vacation rental properties. According to a survey released in April, 2013 by TripAdvisor, nearly half (49%) of the 1,300 U.S. travelers who responded to the survey indicated that they either have or plan to stay in a rental home in 2013, up from 40% in 2011 and 46% in 2012.

Why such a surge in interest for vacation rentals over hotels? According to the survey, 82% of respondents cited savings and last minute deals as the top reasons.  Other motivating factors for the choice included traveling with a large group and the availability of more living space. While not specifically mentioned in the survey, it’s probable that greater awareness of the availability of vacation rentals as a result of increased online marketing and guest referrals are also playing a big role in the shift. After all, how many of you remember childhood vacations spent in a personal residence as opposed to in a major hotel chain?

Each type of lodging facility offers its own unique advantages. Here are the most common ones:


Ultimately, travelers are likely to make their selection for lodging type based on past experiences, personal preferences, budgets, travel purpose, size of the group and their relationship with one another, length of stay, and the availability of lodging options at their desired location. For shorter stays and when traveling alone, the conveniences that hotels offer are hard to beat.  But for longer term lodging and with friends or relatives who want to be close, but not too close, vacation rentals often provide the ideal accommodations. And if the convenience of hotel room service is a really big deal, consider hiring a professional chef to come in and prepare those special meals in the comfort and privacy of your vacation rental.

Travel Statistics to Guide Your Target Marketing Efforts – Leisure Travel Wins!

You know that effectiveness is enhanced with target marketing. But how do you know which target to aim for, business or leisure travelers? Here are some key facts to help you decide.

Someone once said about marketing that if you do the right things, then you only need to concern yourself with doing things right. But if you do the wrong things, it doesn’t much matter how well you do them. The question you might then ask yourself is: “What are the right things for me?”

The answer will vary to some degree based upon your specific location, business model, facilities and other factors but regardless of what segment of the hospitality industry that you specialize in, certain statistics about demographic trends in the travel and hospitality industry are likely to shape your future marketing efforts. On a broad scale, these trends are influenced by travel purpose, economic conditions, personal disposable income, fuel costs, consumer confidence, and other factors.

Let’s start with the broad strokes: Exactly who is traveling?

According to the U.S. Travel Association, consumers spent $564 billion in 2011 for domestic and international leisure travel verses $249 billion spent by business travelers, a margin of more than 2:1. For domestic travel within the U.S., the margin is even greater with 77% of the 2011 total conducted for leisure purposes.

According to the Global Business Travel Association, business travel has grown less than 6% on average from 2010 through 2012 as the economy has recovered and as many companies are reporting record profits due to a weak labor market. In spite of this, the frequency of business travel was forecast to actually decline year over year in 2012 and again in 2013. Clearly, corporate profitability is not a significant factor.

So what is?

While there is no substitute for a face-to-face business meeting on certain occasions, many others can be accomplished in a much more cost-effective manner using technology solutions that have proliferated and grown in acceptance over the past several years.  Are these advances in broadband and V.O.I.P. technologies doing for business travel what e-mail did for the U.S. Postal Service? The implications cannot be denied.

For those businesses with marketing plans heavily concentrated on the business traveler, the target still exists but the bull’s eye appears to be shrinking. In order to respond, businesses must dial in the accuracy and effectiveness of their marketing efforts, consider expanding their focus more on the leisure market, or both.


Stats About How Your Guests Compare You to Your Competitors

The Average traveler will visit 4 vacation rental websites and inquire about 7 properties.

vacation rental sites visited prior to booking

Travelers are 83% more likely to make an inquiry on your property listing if you have over 20 photos vs less than 5 photos.  Interesting Fact: Only 6% of properties feature over 20 photos (at Flipkey, a Tripadvisor company) [Read more…]

Stats from Google on Travel and Online Travel Research

The following stats were shared by Haley Knowlton Gribben, an Adwords Account Manager from Google. She presented at the Vacation Rental Manager Association’s Annual Conference on October 10th in Orlando.

It was a fast-paced and informative presentation. Thanks Haley.  These are my hastily scribbled notes:

Vacation Rental Search Becomes More Popular:

  • 42% Year to Year growth for popular vacation rental queries at
  • 34% growth in overall travel terms

10.2 sources being used by travellers in 2011 for their travel decision making process

  • 27% read email from a travel company
  • 85% searched with a search engine
  • 49% searched online hotel reviews
  • 37% read online travel reviews
  • 25% read online comments

Travel Purchase Timeframe and Planning Window: Most travellers began thinking about the travel purchase at least one month before taking their trip.

  • 8% 4-6 months before
  • 24% 2-3 months before
  • 21% 1 month before
  • 10% 3 weeks before

Affluent Travelers:

  • 80% of affluent travelers actually comparison shop “always or frequently”
  • This is more than personal or business segment travelers
  • The amount spent on the travel positively correlates with amount of research
  • “Research intensity increases with travel spend” [Read more…]

Vacation Rental Review Data from FlipKey and Escapia

At the April 2011 North Carolina Vacation Rental Managers Association (NCVRMA) conference John Suzuki (VP of Sales, Escapia) and Bryan Goodwin (Account Manager, Flipkey) shared some unique data about guest reviews for the vacation rental market.

Between the two of them there are over 500,000 reviews in their research. Escapia is owned by HomeAway and Flipkey is owned by TripAdvisor.

Here are my notes:

John from Escapia went first and said:

  • 362K requests were sent (from vacation rental managers to guests)
  • 142K reviews provided for a 39% completion rate
  • Higher satisfaction correlates to higher response rates
  • Higher priced properties get higher ratings and lower priced get lower ratings
  • The breakdown:
    • 64% are 5 star reviews
    • 25% are 4 star reviews
    • 8% are 3 star
  • Specifically, the highest ranking “part” of the stay was:
    • Location 72%  5 star rating
    • Services from the Vacation Rental Manager 73%  5 star rating
  • And the lowest was:
    • Cleanliness 59%  5 star rating
    • Condition of property 51%  5 star rating
  • 61% of property managers do not respond to negative reviews
  • 4% of all reviews are actually responded to

Bryan from FlipKey reported that:

FlipKey has 320K reviews:

  • 63% 5 star
  • 23% 4 star
  • 11% 3 star
  • 4 % 2 & 1 Star

When they measured interest (by inquiry volume) according to how many reviews each property had:

  • 3-5 reviews received 34% more interest
  • 6-10  reviews received 159% more interest
  • 11+ reviews received 246% more interest

TripAdvisor Releases Second Annual Vacation Rentals Survey Research

TripAdvisor Unlocks the Results of its Second Annual Vacation Rentals Survey Research

Survey Shows Increased Interest in Vacation Rentals, With 40 Percent of Travelers Researched Planning a Rental Stay in 2011

NEWTON, Mass., Jan. 5, 2011 /PRNewswire/ — TripAdvisor®, the world’s largest travel site*, today announced the results of its second annual vacation rentals survey of more than 1,400 U.S. travelers. Forty percent of respondents said they are planning a vacation rental stay in 2011, indicating that rental homes are poised for a busy year ahead. Thirty-three percent of travelers said they stayed in a vacation rental in 2010.

“With an increased interest in vacation rentals on TripAdvisor and a similar trend shown in our survey, it’s shaping up to be another strong year of growth for rentals,” said Hank Hudepohl, director of vacation rentals at TripAdvisor. “For travelers staying with larger groups in 2011, a vacation rental is a great option to consider for its home-like amenities and affordable pricing compared to hotels.”

Know Before You Go

When deciding between different rental properties, the key influences cited by respondents are:

  • Photos of the home (42 percent)
  • Traveler reviews (27 percent)
  • Cost of staying at the properties (13 percent)

Over the Internet and Through the Grapevine

Most travelers find out about vacation rental properties on the Web, both on vacation rental property websites (70 percent) and online travel websites (55 percent). In addition, 25 percent of respondents find out about particular homes by word of mouth from friends and family. [Read more…]

Vacation Rental Online Conversions in Online Travel Sites

According to Dennis Schaal at Tnooz’s Leisurelink Data Vacation Rental Lookers Converting to Bookers:

LeisureLink, which tracks queries for vacation rentals, timeshare resorts and boutique hotels from online travel agencies, including Travelocity, Orbitz and Expedia; the GDSs; and LeisureLink’s own released booking conversion trends:

The conversion rate in vacation lodging sales in December 2010 increased 31% over the prior month, November 2010, and 16% over December 2009.