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Introduction to Visitor Surveys

The visitor survey provides unique and useful information about non-resident travel in areas where visitors make a significant contribution to the overall traffic. Some metropolitan areas draw thousands of visitors who travel for sightseeing, business, amusement, and sports events. The visitor survey collects information on the mode of travel and the geographic and temporal movements of non-residents.

Visitor surveys are designed to gather information about the characteristics of non-residents who stay at hotels or other places of lodging. (Throughout this section, the term “hotel” is used to refer to all public lodging for hire, including hotels, motels, bed-and-breakfast establishments, etc.) The surveys also document the number and type of trips. These data can be used to develop visitor trip generation rates (i.e. trips/occupied hotel room). This type of survey is not used to gather information about specific tourist or recreational attractions such as theme parks. In those cases, a special generator or establishment survey is the appropriate means to collect the data.

Data collected from hotel/visitor surveys can be used to estimate the potential visitor demand for new service modes, particularly specialty modes such as people movers or streetcars that are designed to appeal to visitors. The potential demand for travel to new destinations that would draw tourists can also be estimated. The trip information from the hotel/visitor survey can also be used to help estimate the effects of new development.

The surveys usually will not account for visitors staying with resident friends (which sometimes are accounted for in the household travel survey) or for visitors staying at non-commercial lodgings such as clubs, association facilities, or school dormitories. In addition, the hotel-based survey will not provide information on travel of visitors who do not stay overnight.

The format of a hotel/visitor survey is similar to that of a household travel survey. Instead of a residential dwelling unit, the hotel room is used as the sampling unit. Data can be expanded to the estimated number of occupied rooms in the same way in which household survey data are expanded to occupied dwelling units. Location within the study area may also be a predictive variable in estimating the number of trips by mode and purpose. Combined with the occupancy rates by hotel size class and location collected from the sample of hotels, the rates can be used to estimate the number of visitor trips generated by mode and purpose for an estimate of all occupied hotel rooms in each size-class and (if applicable) by area-type for the entire study area.


References

1. Chapter 19 of the online Travel Survey Manual, authored by Mark McCourt, Brenda Zhou and Rob Sheldon

2. Chapter 11 of the FHWA Travel Survey Manual.