A first ever in-depth survey of visitors to Vermont sheds light on how they make their travel decisions. Visitors to Vermont welcome centers, state parks and local attractions filled out more than 8,500 questionnaires over a two year period.
Researchers say the results present a fairly comprehensive picture of why they decide to come and what they like to do once they arrive.
According to the survey results, the most significant factor in the decision to vacation in Vermont is word of mouth.
Lisa Chase with University of Vermont Extension Service and the Vermont Tourism Research Center was one of the survey’s researchers.
“Friends and family were very important,” Chase says. “Almost two-thirds of the respondents said friends and family influenced the decision to vacation and travel in Vermont. While for planning the trip, that’s where website and print media were very important.”
Not surprisingly, sightseeing was listed as the most popular activity of Vermont visitors.
But the survey also provides a level of detail not previously available.
Researcher Bill Valliere of the tourism research center and the UVM Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources says visitors of all ages also indicated a strong preference for local foods and beverages.
It’s a sign that people are getting the message about Vermont’s local foods and value-added products.
“I was pleasantly surprised to see just how strong agricultural tourism and food and drink experiences were for people, and that’s across the various sites we talked with people in,” says Valliere. “I think Vermont is uniquely placed for that type of experience.”
Vermont tourism officials say the survey results will help them advertise the state more effectively. Vermont spends about $2 million annually on tourism marketing.
Department of Tourism and Marketing Commissioner Megan Smith says in her four years on the job there’s been a shift to more digital advertising.
“The lion’s share of it now goes to matching marketing dollars from different regions in the state and most of it is focusing digitally: The online travel agents, Google ads, we have a huge response from ads on Pandora,” says Smith.
Smith says the survey results also provide a baseline of data that can be compared to future visitor questionnaires.