Bureau releases 2003 traveler study

Tourism officials hope to tap independent traveler market

Posted: Friday, December 05, 2003

Tourism officials plan to tap the independent traveler market with tours and sightseeing opportunities based on a new traveler study, Juneau Convention and Visitors Bureau CEO Lorene Palmer said.

The bureau released the 2003 study, "A Profile of Juneau Visitors," at its annual meeting Thursday at the Baranof Hotel. Susan Bell of McDowell Group, Inc. presented the study, outlining statistical data of about 510 cruise ship and airline travelers interviewed from May to September of this year. The last traveler study was done in 2001.

The bureau has not had solid statistical data on overnight independent travelers since 1993, Palmer said. It had some studies on cruise ship passengers, she said.

One of the most significant findings of the study, Palmer said, was that many travelers have layovers at the Juneau Airport but do not spend money on tourism. She wants to target that audience by promoting tours and sightseeing depending on the length of a passenger's layover.

"Maybe we should have a more dynamic display at the airport," Palmer said. "Hopefully, it will point out some opportunities for us, so we can speak to that audience."

Among those interviewed at the airport, 66 percent said they could not comment on tours because they did not take one, Bell said. Of the 34 percent who took a tour, nearly all were satisfied or very satisfied with their experience, the study said.

Sixty-three percent of travelers previously had visited Alaska by airplane, and 79 percent of that 63 percent previously visited Juneau, the study said. Visitors averaged seven repeat trips to Alaska.

"We're talking about a market that knows us pretty well," Bell said.

To compare, only 18 percent of cruise ship passengers had visited Alaska on a previous trip and repeat travelers averaged 2.7 trips, the study said.

Another significant finding was that tourists are booking trips later compared to about 20 years ago. Business owners need to consider that when marketing their products and services, Bell said. For example, mail marketing may take too long for some who use less planning time, Bell said.

She attributes the trend change to higher internet use, a cautiousness in traveling and younger travelers. They likely work and have less planning time, she said. Forty-four percent of airplane visitors and 31 percent of cruise ship passengers made trip decisions three months or less in advance, the report said.

Other highlights of the study compared to 2001 data include:

• A drop in satisfaction ratings in customer service and friendliness from 98 to 95 percent.

• The number of repeat travelers is up from 49 to 63 percent.

• An increased use of lodges and bed and breakfasts compared to hotels.

• Increased internet booking from 33 to 43 percent.

• Higher tour ratings from 92 to 98 percent.

The study cost $27,000. The bureau funded $17,000 and the city, $10,000, Palmer said. The McDowell Group plans to issue a more detailed study of its findings in mid-December, Bell said.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.

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