Cultural Tourism By The Numbers

The most recent study on cultural tourism was conducted by Mandala Research in 2013 and it shows that leisure travelers represent 71% of the U.S. adult population, or approximately 170 million Americans. Seventy-six percent of all leisure travelers, 130 million, can be defined as cultural travelers, having participated in cultural activities on their most recent trip or within the past three years.

Five distinct segments were identified in the study – mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive.

  1. Passionate Cultural/Heritage Leisure Travelers
    Leisure travelers who participate in cultural and heritage activities to a larger extent than other segments.
    For a large percentage of this group, these activities are a driver of destination choice.
    13% of leisure travelers or 23 million leisure travelers
  2. Well-Rounded/Active Cultural/Heritage Leisure
    Travelers Leisure travelers that are open to experiencing all types of activities while on a leisure trip, including cultural and/or heritage activities.
    14% of leisure travelers or 24 million leisure travelers
  3. Aspirational Cultural/Heritage Leisure Travelers
    Leisure travelers who desire to experience and participate in cultural/heritage activities, but have limited experiences with cultural activities during their most recent trip and during the past three years.
    27% of leisure travelers or 46.3 million leisure travelers
  4. Self-Guided/Accidental Cultural/Heritage Leisure
    Travelers Leisure travelers who take advantage of cultural/heritage activities while on a leisure trip, but cultural/heritage activities aren’t the driver for their destination choices. They most often prefer exploring small towns, galleries and self-guided historical tours.
    11% of leisure travelers or 18 million leisure travelers
  5. Keeping it Light Cultural/Heritage Leisure Travelers
    Leisure travelers that don’t seek out cultural/heritage activities but who will attend what they perceive as fun art, cultural and musical events.
    11% of leisure travelers or 18.5 million leisure travelers




Based on self-reported spending data, the amount spent by each of these groups has increased over the period from 2009 to 2013. The largest increases are among Well-Rounded (29%), who spend the most per trip, and Passionate travelers (27%).

These statistics hold true in Florida, as well. Visit Florida states that 75% of all visitors to the state participated in assorted cultural activities. In Palm Beach County, more than 3 million people attended cultural activities in 2013. Individual cultural sites attracted large numbers of visitors throughout the year.

Cultural Organization Total Attendance Number of Tourists Percent of Tourists
SunFest of Palm Beach County 172,869 122,019 71%
Norton Museum of Art 124,022 76,551 62%
Flagler Museum 76,576 45,316 59%
Loggerhead Marinelife Center 245,808 130,278 53%
Kravis Center 344,650 51,698 15%
Old School Square 373,103 147,647 39%
Palm Beach Zoo 322,103 34,559 11%

A Niche Market Within The Tourism Industry

Cultural tourism is a niche market within the tourism industry that is defined as travel directed toward experiencing the traditional and contemporary culture, arts and special character of a destination. This includes the performing, visual and literary arts, museums, science/nature/history-based sites, heritage, crafts, architecture, design and film.

Travelers who engage in cultural tourism activities visit:

  • Art galleries, theaters and museums.
  • Historic sites, communities or landmarks.
  • Cultural events, festivals and fairs.
  • Ethnic communities and neighborhoods.
  • Architectural and archaeological treasures.
  • Ecological /nature sites with educational opportunities.


Benefits Of Attracting This Market

A primary benefit of cultural tourism is economic impact. There are plenty of statistics that show travelers who participate in cultural activities spend more money and stay longer than other leisure travelers. Another consideration is that tourism in Palm Beach County peaks in the winter/spring, and while many cultural activities are concentrated during that time, arts and culture offer activities year-round, providing economic benefit 12 months per year and seasonal relief for communities that are highly dependent upon snowbirds or other wintertime income.

A good cultural tourism plan shapes and defines a community’s image, both to itself and to the outside world. Palm Beach County boasts more major cultural institutions than any community south of Atlanta, giving this part of Florida a competitive advantage, from a tourism perspective, over all other beach destinations.

The Council’s task is to develop a realization and appreciation of this advantage and to find exciting and unique ways to tell the story of our local culture, arts and humanities. Local cultural leaders, artists, entertainers, and volunteers help bring this story to life.

People have always come to Palm Beach County to visit cultural sites, but only in the last decade has the Council begun to talk specifically to these cultural tourists.

Recent tourism research indicates clearly that cultural tourists are a force to be reckoned with because:

  • Cultural tourism is the fastest growing sector of the travel industry.
  • Cultural tourists spend more per day and more per trip than other travelers.
  • Cultural tourists include multiple destinations during a visit and stay longer at each destination.
  • Cultural tourists have higher levels of income.

A tourism effort cannot be done by a single individual or organization. Collaboration is an essential part of any cultural tourism program. The Cultural Council leads this cultural tourism effort in Palm Beach County, and its primary partners are the Tourist Development Council, Discover the Palm Beaches, the Sports Commission, the Film Commission, the Palm Beach County Convention Center, and the Environmental Resource Management Department.

Essential to the work is a collaborative, robust and connected cultural industry. More than 200 non-profit cultural organizations make up the cultural industry, and through a thriving grant program, regular Cultural Marketing Committee gatherings, and outstanding communications, the Council leverages the strength of this large group of cultural leaders and resources.