Red and Blue Tourism, it’s not as crazy as you might think.


Issue #12 (641 Words/3 Minutes)

Red and Blue Tourism, it’s not as crazy as you might think.


Has anyone given any thought to what tourism looks like in a red and blue America? Many in the industry may long for a return to the post-pandemic time of 2019, when tourism was so much simpler. But the divisions of red and blue America grow increasingly brighter and increasingly stark.


For years, consumers have been basing their good consumer purchases on companies aligning with their values. The 2020 Consumer Culture Report found the following among survey respondents:


71% of Consumers Prefer Buying from Companies Aligned with Their Values

Twenty-one percent of Baby Boomers say buying from brands that share their values and ideologies is important.

With Generation Xers, this number rises to 50%.

And with the Millennial generation, 62% of those surveyed believe buying from companies that support their own political and social beliefs is important.

For small businesses looking to attract new customers, retain existing customers, and grow their business, the research highlights the importance of brand alignment and marketing company values and ethos to the right audiences.


Since the election of 2016, the split into red and blue states has become more profound and more evident, almost a de facto civil war. Red states are characterized by conservative politics and evangelical influence, and blue states by their progressive agenda. It seemed like only a matter of time before the political orientation would play some role in the consumer's destination selection process.


Why wouldn't political orientation, gender, age, income, personal values, and purchase behavior influence tourism destination selection?


My associate Lauren Schlau and I conducted a national study on this topic early last fall. It comes to the forefront again at a time when it is anticipated that the Supreme Court of the United States is poised to overturn Roe vs. Wade deepening the red and blue divide. Our research found that political orientation did have some connection to different types of destinations. In a far-reaching study, “Does Political Ideology Play a Role in Destination Choice? (Legg, Tang and Slevitch 2012, Journal of Travel Research) the authors did find “…somewhat liberal travelers visited states that exhibited more liberal political tendencies than the states traveled to by somewhat conservative travelers.”


Think about it; many Texans may not be interested in visiting San Francisco no matter how good the cioppino is. There are probably not many people from San Francisco looking to visit Dallas.

What could it mean for tourism? Perhaps the best way to consider the implications is to think about different scenarios. One scenario would suggest people will only visit those destinations that they align with politically. Imagine the nightmare of targeting and messaging just those in a market that matched the political orientation of your destination—sitting with your ad agency and media planner trying to figure out the best media to reach democrats or republicans. It seems a bit farfetched now, but is it? Who would have thought we would be where we are today, so divided? At the other end of the spectrum is where we are now. Consumers may be passively selecting destinations based on political orientation. I believe that the red and blue division will continue, so it’s not inconceivable that consumers move from passive selection of a destination’s political orientation to a more active selection based on a destination’s political orientation.


From a DMOs perspective, it becomes a fine line, and they are probably best served not taking an overt position in their marketing and promotional efforts. What boggles one mind is that this kind of thinking which would never have been imaginable, is now something tourism professionals, both in red and blue states, may need to consider.


For more information contact Carl Ribaudo, carl@smgonline.net




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