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Visitor Survey

[2001]
An audience research project with a nonprofit coalition
Cultural Tourism DC, Washington, DC

Study Context

Cultural Tourism DC (CTdc), previously the DC Heritage Tourism Coalition, is a membership consortium of more than 185 cultural and neighborhood organizations dedicated to strengthening the image and economy of Washington, DC. In 2001, CTdc asked RK&A to conduct a study to provide reliable information about visitors to its member institutions. The membership organization intended to replicate the survey to determine changes in visitors' characteristics and behavior over time.

Approach

RK&A designed a standardized questionnaire and conducted face-to-face interviews with 1,200 visitors to CTdc member sites. Data were collected from visitors to member institutions in three D.C. neighborhoods: Lafayette Square, DuPont Circle, and Downtown. One of the study's primary objectives, in addition to collecting visitor demographics, was to determine visitors' behavior while visiting cultural sites, including their spending behavior.

Findings

The audience surveyed at member sites was similar to the general U.S. museum visiting population, distinguished by high income and education levels and by their frequent visits to other cultural institutions. Overall, the audience was split between tourists and local visitors and varied with the season.

Regarding spending behavior, approximately one-half of respondents who visited a member site planned to dine in a restaurant in the neighborhood and two-fifths planned to visit a shop in the neighborhood. The findings align with those of the Travel Industry Association, which found that cultural heritage tourists spend more money and visit longer than do other types of tourists.

Conclusion

The CTdc audience research provided important baseline information about visitors' characteristics and behaviors. The data on spending behavior while visiting cultural sites, in particular that cultural visitors are likely to eat and shop in local neighborhoods while visiting member sites, directly relates to CTdc's mission to strengthen the economy of Washington, DC. The data suggest that increasing tourists' awareness of cultural sites may bring more visitors into the neighborhoods, and once there, they may contribute to the economic development of those neighborhoods.

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