The Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce & CVB’s year-end 2019 marketing report was given at the Branson Board of Aldermen meeting by Rachel Wood, chief marketing officer for the Branson CVB.
The presentation included key performance indicators, behavioral profile, travel planning & future experiences and U.S. travel performance for Branson.
Key performance indicators:
According to the presentation, 2019 visitation hit 9.1 million, which is a record for Branson since measurements began in 1993. Since 2012, Branson has increased annual visitation six of the past seven years, which fueled a record year in 2019.
Branson’s 1% sales tax and tourism tax revenues in 2019 were lower than last year’s, while all other tax sources experienced YOY (year over year) growth.
According to STR (Smith Travel Research), Branson’s room demand increased by 3.3% over last year, similar to increases seen in Kansas City, Pigeon Forge and Hershey, Pennsylvania.
According to the presentation, 51% of Branson’s 2019 travelers were repeat visitors. Repeat visitation increased again in 2019 by 4.5 pts, marking a nine-point increase since 2017.
Branson continues to deliver a geographically diverse visitor profile. The core market (0-100 miles) saw a slight decline, while the primary and outer markets saw increases compared to 2018. Leisure travel continues to be the primary purpose of visitation to Branson. And, with more repeat visitation, decision time was shortened by four day on average.
Personal autos remain the most popular mode of transportation. For those who fly, the Springfield-Branson National Airport remained the most popular airport. Air travel to Branson inched upward in 2019, as did those using the Branson Airport. However, most air travelers continue to use Springfield.
The most popular area activity categories continue to be live shows, shopping and downtown Branson. Although, these activities each dipped in 2019 while Silver Dollar City and outdoor activities increased.
Live shows participation among Branson visitors fell to 62% in 2019, marking the lowest ratio of show visitors ever recorded. The number of live shows seen per visit has averaged around three shows since 2015. A new question, regarding the type of show seen, was added to the survey, and shows that the majority of the shows seen were either a live performance show in a theater or a dinner show production.
Timeshare visitation for 2019 was closer to the historical average of 20%, while more than one-third are encouraged to visit a timeshare before their visit to Branson.
Overnight visitors were reported to be more likely to stay overnight in a hotel/motel, and VRBO/Airbnb shows a 6% share, which is similar to RV/camper and lake resorts. Group travel went up to 5.3% in 2019 with 2018 at 3.4%. However, the number of people per group dwindled from 35.0 in 2018 to 33.8 in 2019.
Branson visitor parties spent more money in the area in 2019, $982 per party trip, which marks the highest recorded spending since the Great Recession.
Branson’s Net Promoter score remained at 61%, same as 2018. As well as 88% of visitors reporting to have intent to return in the next 12 months. 2019 shows the youngest age of average visitor in Branson in the last 10 years at an average of 55 years old. This is reported to be because of an increase in the number of family visitors.
For the second year in a row they have added questions in their profile study, in the holiday season, specifically about the America’s Christmas Tree City campaign.
“We found that 28% were aware of America’s Christmas Tree City,” said Wood. “91% of those surveys said that they saw, they visited or they engaged in Christmas tree displays; 17% said that the importance of the America’s Christmas Tree City was a decision for their visit to Branson and 15% said they would not have visited without the addition of the America’s Christmas Tree City campaign. That overall showed a derived impact of America’s Christmas Tree City at 4.2%.”
Travel planning & future experiences
According to the presentation, most (72%) travelers did not consider other destinations when considering Branson. Those who did were most likely to consider Pigeon Forge or St. Louis, both of which saw a decline in consideration.
Previous experiences and websites are still the most common sources used to plan trips to Branson, both of which saw significant increases compared to last year. Ownership of smart phones, social media and tablets all increased this year while ownership of desktop PCs declined.
Facebook continues to be Branson’s most popular social media site, with a four-point increase in usage in 2019. This is followed by YouTube, Instagram and Pinterest. Searching for information via smart phones topped the list of information sources used this past year, while searching online from a computer dropped significantly.
U.S. travel performance
According to Wood, the predictions made for this section regarding travel were made before the coronavirus outbreak.
Originally, the U.S. Travel Association predicted that leisure travel would grow by 1.5% in 2020 and business travel would grow by 1% in 2020.