Among the trends affecting tourism, reduced disposable income among the nation’s middle class could mean shorter vacations and fewer travelers to Oregon’s Rogue Valley, according to a report by the Medford, Ore., Mail Tribune.
John Hope-Johnstone, executive director of a local tourism businss, told a Chamber of Medford/Jackson County gathering that fewer dollars in middle-class America’s pocket is an issue that shouldn’t be ignored.
“The birth of mass tourism relied on a large middle-class population,” Hope-Johnstone. “It started with charters in the 1960s and continued through to the huge industry we have today. It survives not because of the top 5%, but because of healthy middle class.”
But there has been a 7% drop in middle-class buying power during the past decade. Because Southern Oregon’s economy typically enjoys a significant boost from tourism, it’s a matter the industry has to observe.
“Vacations are shorter than they were in the 1950s and 1960s,” said Hope-Johnstone of Corvallis Tourism. “We’re taking mini-vacations far more now instead of long family vacations.”
Although vacations were longer 40 or 50 years ago, Americans now take more, shorter vacations, often closer to home, he said.
“Finances are a major component and the driving force is the dual income family society set-up,” Hope-Johnstone said. “The expense of vacations requires dual income families.”
He said the biggest booms in the travel and leisure sector are cruises and recreational vehicle travel.
“The average RV purchase isn’t by a 65-year-old retiree,” Hope-Johnstone said. “It’s by 45-year-old Baby Boomers who have discovered RVs are a great way to have a family experience while being able to control the product and have a good time, too. They decide on what vehicle and what they’re going to do with it.”
He said cruises, proved almost recession proof during the last down cycle.
“It was once something for the well-to-do,” Hope-Johnstone said. “Today it’s for everyone.”
Hope-Johnstone also noted other factors affecting tourism, including:
* The experience of what we do while vacationing has more value than the product itself.
* More elements compete for our time. “We want a seven-day vacation, need 21 and get an average of four days,” he said.
* Corporate changes during the 1990s removed many people between 37 and 47 from middle management. “It creates a mild paranoia because younger managers are wondering ‘When are these guys ever going to retire?’ ”
* Information overload, based on rapid spread of new information.