In today’s tourist markets, a declining average stay is observed in tourism length of stay. This trend goes hand in hand with an increasing frequency of trips throughout the year (Martinez-Garcia &Raya, 2008; Yang & Liu, 2003). The length of stay is one of the key elements in a tourist’s decision-making process (Bull 1995) and is of great importance for tourist destination. To point out the importance of length of stay for touristic destinations: the touristic product must adapt itself to the amount of time tourist have at a destination; shorter stays can cause greater administration costs for some companies and the promotional campaigns must be adjusted to the tourist’s decisions with regard to the time they spent at a destination (Ritchie & Crouch, 2003). Hence, the key question for tourism destinations is: What are the important factors that will determine the length of stay; How can I make them stay longer?
According to Alegre & Pou (2006) a holiday’s length, like the actual decision to spend the holiday at a certain destination, can be explained by two types of variables: first variables associated with personal and family characteristics and second economic variables such as level of income or the price of the holiday. Family and personal characteristics that can influence the length of stay can be the tourists age, gender, family status, number of children, nationality and level of education and profession. These characteristics can have a direct effect on the holidays length, for example that a couple with kids have limited time to go on holiday and can only go during the school holidays. However, variables like age and gender might have an indirect effect on the length of stay since they influence consumer’s preferences and help to define values and motivations.
When looking at the economic variables, according to economic theory, a rise in income with fixed relative prices should lead to an increase in the demand for tourist services. A rise in holiday price with fixed income should lead to a fall in demand (Berman & Kim, 1999).
In a research to determine what affects the length of stay in the tourism destination Madeira Island (Barros & Machado 2010) it is concluded that socio- economic characters like age, gender, education and nationality explain the length of stay. However Martinez- Garcia & Raya (2006) (who researched the length of stay of low-cost travellers to Spain) state that age, gender and reason for travel appear to have no significant effect on a holidays duration. On the other hand it states that variables like type of accommodation, tourist destination and level of education are aspects which further increase (or decrease) days stayed at a destination. Which explains the direct effect of economical variables which Alegre & Pou (2006) also mentioned.
When comparing both results it can be concluded that tourists behave similarly in different context relative to some characteristics (economic variables), but different to the role of some other variables (personal variables).
So when do tourist stay longer at a destination? To answer this question a conclusion should be that the differences in destinations analysed in the different studies and the different characteristics of their respective tourists generating markets will condition the differences observed in the specific results.
Destination managers should take into account that tourist time availability for travel, their country of origin, age and occupation as well as the type of destination can be relevant for the length of stay. What can also be considered is that the length may act as an adjustment variable, reduce it when prices are higher, the income is lower and the tourist has less time available for travel. Therefore, to attract tourists with longer stays, focus on those who are not time bound (elderly). But given that higher prices contribute to shorter stay, there seems to be a trade- off between higher prices (quality) and longer stays. Attracting higher income tourists may be a good strategy for this example.
Alegre, J. & Pou L.(2006), the length of stay in demand for tourism, Tourism Management 27 (2006) 1343–1355
Barros Pestena C.P. & Machado L.P. (2010) The length of stay in tourism. Annals of Tourism Research. 37 (3), 629-706
Berman, M. D., & Kim, H-J. (1999). Endogenous on-site time in the recreation demand model. Land Economics, 75(4), 603–619.
Bull, A. (1995). The economics of travel and tourism (2nd ed). Australia Longman
Martinez- Garcia, E., & Raya, J. M. (2008). The determinants of the length of stay in the Azores. Tourism Economics, 14, 2005-222
Ritchie, F.R.B., & Crouch, G.I. (2003) The competitive destination. Cambridge: CABI Publishing