Tourism plays an important role in the local economy of many areas of the country, and in some areas like Hawaii, Las Vegas, and Orlando, is the dominant driver of economic performance. In mountain ski and desert golf resorts the season is winter dominant while in most beach towns and national parks summer is high season. The geographic patterns of business travel can be radically different than personal and leisure travel. On any given night in a normal year, upwards of nine million people are found in hotels, second homes, the homes of friends and family, in recreational vehicles, or camping.

The impact of the non-resident population on a site – restaurant or retail – can be substantial, often proving to be the difference of locational success and failure. In July, AGS will be releasing a detailed annual and quarterly estimate of where those tourists can be found, bridging an important gap in the analytical toolbox of site analysts.

The non-resident population estimates are provided separately for eight sub-categories –

  • Domestic business travelers
  • Foreign business travelers
  • Migrant workers
  • Leisure travelers at hotels
  • Leisure travelers staying with friends and family
  • Leisure travelers staying at owned or rented second homes
  • Campers
  • Leisure travelers in recreational vehicles

The map below shows the ratio between winter and summer tourism levels for areas with significant numbers of tourists. While summer tourism dominates nationwide, there are significant areas – either mountain ski resorts or southern “snowbird” destinations that have a clear winter dominant tourism season.

The estimates are based on a complex set of demand factors coupled with available supply using a distance weighted and capacity constrained location-allocation model. Over thirty separate seasonally differentiated demand factors were used to estimate the attractiveness of any particular block for each type of traveler –

  • National park system visitor counts
  • State parks
  • Golf courses (winter dominant, annual, summer only)
  • Theme parks (seasonal, annual)
  • Beaches (seasonal, annual)
  • Boating/Marine establishments
  • Tours and Charters
  • Casinos
  • Museums and historical sites
  • Zoos and nature preserves
  • Performing arts facilities
  • Sporting events facilities
  • Independent artists, musicians
  • Wineries, craft breweries, and craft distilleries
  • Shopping
  • Antiques, galleries, and gift shops
  • Urban attractiveness (population based)
  • Climatic desirability (“snowbirds”, Alaskan short summer season)
  • Road trip desirability (scenic highways)
  • Businesses (all, large firms, headquarters)
  • Convention centers (all, major only)

The allocation of the demand to block groups uses a demand factor specific distance decay over a maximum distance to block groups able to satisfy the demand for each of the following types of accommodations –

  • Hotels, using block group employment counts
  • Family and friends, using population
  • Owned second homes and rented vacation homes, using seasonally vacant housing units
  • Campgrounds, weighted by number of campsites and seasonal opening
  • Recreational Vehicles, using locations of RV facilities and selected major retail outlets
  • Vacant homes for migrant workers

The proper assignment of demand to hotel rooms is important, as hotel accommodations are very unequally distributed within any particular area. The map below shows the distribution of hotel employment in Washington DC area, from which the number of available accommodations are estimated.

Finally, the impact of tourism on local economies is well demonstrated by the following map which shows the ratio between non-resident population and resident population: