- The Washington Times - Monday, August 27, 2012

While tourists worldwide flock to the District for their vacations, D.C. residents are flocking elsewhere for their time off, according to a new survey.

The survey released Monday by a luxury travel organization shows that Washingtonians take more vacations than their counterparts in the country’s 10 largest cities.

A total of 2,500 people were questioned on their vacation habits in the past five years and nearly 75 percent of D.C. residents said they have spent one night or more away from home at least once every year.

The news wasn’t a surprise for tourism experts, including Douglas Frechtling, a professor of tourism studies at George Washington University.

“This is a very affluent metropolitan area, particularly in this down economy,” Mr. Frechtling said. “Washington, D.C. is an oasis in a very distressing economic recession.”

The online survey, conducted June 14 to 21 of people who previously had signed up for surveys, asked residents about their vacation habits dating back to 2008, when the country’s economy bottomed out.

“Affluence generates a lot of that vacation time,” Mr. Frechtling said. “But a lot of Washingtonians are transients; they’re from other places. Vacation is a great time to renew the family ties and friendly ties wherever you’re from.”

According to the demographics of the survey, of the 251 District residents questioned, nearly half listed household incomes between $50,000 and $150,000.

San Francisco, which has the second-highest number of annual vacationers, posted similar household income numbers. In Chicago, the city with the lowest percentage of residents going away each year — 55 percent — only 97 of the 261 people surveyed were in that income range.

Gerald Bober, a professor and director of hospitality and tourism management at Roosevelt University in Chicago, said in an email to The Washington Times that a reason for the lack of vacation for those in the Windy City could be there is enough to offer residents without having to leave home.

“There is little need for Chicagoans at any economic level to feel pressure to ‘vacation’ away,” Mr. Bober said. “Chicagoans can visit/participate in museums, parks, shops, events, dance, plays, and other world class leisure activities. Why would I want to go anywhere in the spring, summer, or fall!”

A spokeswoman for Inspirato, the company that sponsored the survey, said there was no data available on where D.C. residents were traveling, but officials with the Maryland Office of Tourism said they have a pretty good idea.

“We know that D.C. is one of our major feeder markets,” said Connie Yingling, a spokeswoman for the office. “It’s very convenient for people who live in D.C., and there’s a broad range of destinations in Maryland. In a couple of hours you can be out in the mountains, you can be down at the beach, and Baltimore is enough of a different city. It doesn’t take long for someone to get the feeling they’re away from home.”

David Schulte, executive director of the Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Corp., said out of 700,000 annual visitors, about 15 percent of them come from the D.C. area.

“The big draw to the Eastern Shore is the outdoor recreation, beaches, and boating,” he said.

According to the survey, D.C. residents were given roughly 16 vacation days a year, compared to the 19 days Atlanta residents get and 15 days given to New York City and Philadelphia residents. Of those vacation days, Washington residents on average did not use five of those 16 days off from work to travel. Chicago, Atlanta and San Francisco residents also failed to use the equivalent of a full work week in traveling vacation days. And while Los Angeles tied for sixth place with New York City for percentage of residents taking annual vacations, people living there had the highest average number of unused vacation days, with six vacation days left over from their time away from home.

Inspirato spokeswoman Christine Rafanelli said the survey helped to show “people actually do take advantage of vacation time.”

What’s interesting, she added, is that the survey also shows “this kind of internal struggle, understanding the importance of vacation and the value of taking time for ourselves.”

“Not everyone feels they can take time from the office or other responsibilities at home,” Ms. Rafanelli said. “In that respect, my hat’s off to people in D.C. who are at least taking one vacation to recharge and spend time with people they love.”



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