Americans aren't taking vacation like they used to.
For decades, Americans took an average of 20.3 days of vacation each year; those numbers fell in 2000, to an average of 16.2. The good news? Vacation is on the upswing, with an average of 16.8 days used in 2016
Yet that's still 662 million unused vacation days annually.
"Most people, when they take time off, are traveling. Those are days that could be spent in your destinations," said Cait DeBaun, director of communications for Project: Time Off—a leading national movement powered by the U.S. Travel Association that aims to shift American culture so time off is understood as essential to personal well-being, professional success, business performance and economic expansion.
Americans are a population of "work martyrs" who are too tied to their jobs to take vacation days.
Typically, they fear the amount of work that piles up while they're out of the office on vacation—or they worry no one else in the office can accomplish the work.
DeBaun recently presented the webinar Planning: The Secret to Unlocking America's Vacation and Boosting Leisure Travel, powered by U.S. Travel's Educational Seminar for Tourism Organizations (ESTO), noting that planning is an effective way to get people to take time off—and hopefully, along with it, a vacation.
"The planning message is essential to driving domestic leisure travel," said DeBaun.
Several destinations have begun sharing the planning message, making it interesting and relevant to their target audience and to their own goals.
CRUSH FRIDAY: A CASE STUDY
Virginia Tourism Corporation targeted millennials in the Washington, D.C., area through its "Crush Friday" campaign. Of all the generations, millennials feel the work-martyr barriers to vacation most acutely. Crush Friday focuses on the message that, if a big vacation is too far out of reach, millennials could take a Friday off for a long weekend in Virginia.
Crush Friday employs FOMO—fear of missing out—featuring all the things millennials could be doing in Virginia on a Friday, other than working. The banner ads below show quirky examples.
If you hope to attract more visitors to your destinations, start urging Americans to take time off.
DeBaun notes three key ways destinations can begin activating Project: Time Off.
1. Get social.
Project: Time Off has several resources for you to share, as simple as copying and pasting into your social accounts. It offers videos and pre-drafted social content for Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Take it a step further and consider a Facebook or Instagram live video. You're experts in your destination, so share what you know! Or consider high-profile individuals in your area, such as celebrities, who could share unique aspects of your destination.
2. Spread the news.
What are your destination's talking points? Do you have a new attraction, or a big event coming next year? Get the news out there!
Project: Time Off has data available for you to share in blog posts and social posts, to help spread the message that vacation is essential.
3. Strike a deal.
Entice visitors through package or promotional deals, like offering a bundle of attractions for one price. Project: Time Off offers a calendar-planning tool to help your visitors plan their vacation in their destinations.
Embed the tool into your website and align it with your destination's attractions, accommodations, events and more. Your visitor never has to leave your website.
"People can plan their vacation days while thinking of you," DeBaun said.
SAVE THE DATE
Planning is an essential step toward vacation, yet 51 percent of Americans do not plan for vacation.
Encourage Americans to declare their vacations days for the rest of the year—at the start of the year. Participate in National Plan for Vacation Day on January 30, 2018.
Project: Time Off offers a toolkit to help you implement creative activations for encouraging Americans to take time off and visit your destination.
Written by Cassie Westrate, staff writer for Groups Today magazine.