Outman’s 2023 projection
More visitors are starting to come, even in the cold months. It has helped that we are adding more things that are open year-round. We’re getting more of that 12-month business, and we’re going to have a record-breaking spring.
I understand 2022 was a banner year for tourism in Branson. True?
Our tourism community enhancement district – the 1% sales tax that goes to tourism marketing – through October, that is actually up 10% over 2021. Looking at actual feet on the street, the number of visitors, so far through October, our visitation is actually up 2.9% over (2021). We won’t have our finals until January or February.
Do you think things will level out in 2023?
I’d like to believe we’re going to keep having record years. It’s interesting – with the year that we had in 2021, we were obviously cautiously optimistic. After all that pent-up demand coming out of COVID, we were anticipating we would actually be down in 2022. For us to be up again, we’re recognizing that Branson is a resilient tourist destination. What really benefits this destination is it’s still a cost-effective place to vacation.
Will tourism take a hit in a recession?
We were originally anticipating probably a down year – 3%-5% down in ’23 compared to ’22. I actually read an article produced (Dec. 15) by U.S. Travel, and they’re now saying they’re anticipating domestic leisure travel to be up 3% in ’23. We’re still anticipating a recession in the second half of the year, but at least on the travel side it’s going to be a reduced recession. It will still allow people to travel.
How do you account for such good numbers in 2022?
What you’re starting to see with the coming out of COVID is a lot of group tours returning. We’ve had a lot of motor coaches in town this year. The shows are having a really good year –they were up double digits in tax collections last time I checked. People are returning to shows post-COVID, and that’s helped introduce more visitation into the market.
Demographically, who’s visiting?
Branson’s becoming a younger destination. We actually send out a general population survey up to a 650-mile radius of Branson trying to get a sense of who our visitors are. The ones that have been here most recently, the average age of adults is 43.8 years old; 62% have families with two kids under the age of 12. That traditional stigma of Branson being for an older traveler or an empty nester, we’re actually seeing the opposite of that.
How did you manage to change your visitor profile?
Outdoor recreation has grown 200% in the last two years, with glamping tents and trails. We did a TikTok for one of the Big Cedar glamping tents, and to date that’s (the chamber’s) largest viewed with almost 3 million views. The millennial and Gen Z traveler, that’s where you’re starting to see some differences in what they’re looking for. We’ve made a big shift in how we market, moving away from traditional television marketing with increased digital marketing. We’re trying to find ways to be more interactive, using more travel influencers that will come into the market and highlight specific things about Branson. We’re focusing on unique aspects, but still highlighting what built Branson: the shows.
You recently started partnering with Springfield for marketing. How’s that going?
We’re doing a cooperative campaign – this year it’s Branson, Springfield and Silver Dollar City. Essentially, we’re highlighting through this campaign the beauty of the Ozarks. You won’t really see a photo of the strip in Branson; you won’t see downtown Springfield. You will see photos of Lake Springfield, Table Rock Lake, things in between. We’ve had discussions, and in 2023 we may even be adding northwest Arkansas to the program.
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