Key Takeaways from the Weaponization of Travel Study

By: Andreas Weissenborn

We are seeing it come up more and more – travel boycotts and bans rolled out in hopes of effecting political change. 

We've seen it in North Carolina with HB2 and with the Bathroom Bill in Texas. But, do these boycotts and bans actually work to effect the political change? 

To help determine how boycotts are impacting perceptions, both in the short and long term, Destinations International partnered with the PCMA Education Foundation and APCO Insight (APCO) to release the Weaponization of Travel Study, which is available for a complimentary download here. 

First, let's define a travel ban, boycott and advisory:

Travel ban: Formal action on the part of a business, state or local municipality or other entity to stop travel within its organization to a specific state 

Travel boycott: Effort to encourage travelers to avoid target states 

Travel advisory: Efforts to raise awareness on an issue, but don’t go as far as to outright encourage people to avoid travel to a state

The Process for the Study:

We first teamed up with APCO for their research expertise. They conducted a detailed audit of the weaponization of travel across five key states—North Carolina, Arizona, Indiana, Tennessee and Mississippi—and surveyed American travelers from across the nation. They surveyed 1,001 adults over 21 who have traveled out of state in the past year and plan to do so in the upcoming year. 

Our goals were to:

  • See if travelers believed boycotts were an effective form of intuiting change
  • To recognize if boycotts hurt our industry
  • Outline possible alternatives to boycotts

Key Takeaways:

1. There is a general awareness about travel boycotts and bans (NC being the most recognized scenario), but not much knowledge about the details of which states have been targeted. 

2. Travelers are split on whether or not they support boycotts. 39% support, 40% oppose, and 22% have no opinion. The mixed opinions are in part, a function of perceived efficacy. Nearly an equal number say boycotts are an effective tactic in compelling state action (42%) and those who said they were not (44%).

3. There is a broad consensus that travel boycotts hurt businesses, especially in hospitality industry. 74% and 72%, respectively, say boycotts harm business overall and the hospitality industry in particular. Travelers say both big and small hospitality lose.

4. Travelers don’t believe politicians bear the brunt of boycott consequences. Only 40% believe they are harmed at all.

5. Travelers believe there are many viable alternatives to boycotts: Almost all tested alternatives are seen as just as good if not better than boycotts. Alternatives include participating in discussions, contacting state politicians and donating to causes that advocate in the state.

6. Tourism boards are viewed as a trusted source – one in four democrats and one in three republicans say they would turn to tourism boards for information.  Tourism boards are also one of the most trusted sources for those who haven’t taken a position on boycotts. 

We are exploring phase two of the Weaponization of Travel Study which may examine social media influencers in this area, take a deeper dive on the meetings industry, and develop a toolkit of boycott alternatives. 

About Andreas Weissenborn:

Introduced to the world of destination organizations by a random internship application to Visit Baltimore (then known as Baltimore Area Convention & Visitors Association), Andreas Weissenborn began an unexpected career into hospitality that left him with a continued passion towards the tourism industry. Weissenborn spent just short of 11 years with Visit Baltimore helping with its Research, Technology, and Information Systems across the organization. In 2017, he joined the Association on behalf of a Destinations International Foundation initiative to be a dedicated research source for Destinatio