“Branson’s location and reputation as a value destination pushed it to the top of the list,” said John Hudak, publisher of Vacationfun.com, which is currently ranked in the top 10 percent of U.S. travel Web sites by the independent tracking firm Hitwise.
Despite economic concerns affecting the tourism industry, travel planning on Vacationfun.com is growing—visits to the site increased by 36 percent in the first half of 2008 compared to the same time period in 2007. According to Hudak, most Americans are not giving up vacations altogether, but staying closer to home and looking for vacation deals.
A traveler survey co-authored by the Travel Industry Association and Ypartnership and released in May revealed that, of respondents who stated their plans will change if gas prices continue to rise, the greatest percentage will respond by driving a shorter distance to their vacation destination.
“Branson fits the bill perfectly for what travelers need this year,” said Hudak.
The average daily hotel rate in Branson is $75.90, compared with a national tab of $103, according to industry research group Smith Travel. Show tickets in Branson average $29, compared to an average $130 to $150 per ticket for Las Vegas.
In addition, the Branson/Lakes Area Chamber of Commerce/CVB sponsors a popular “Gas Buster” program to further offset the cost of travel. The program provides visitors who present at least $40 in gas receipts at either of the Chamber’s two Welcome Centers with a card worth $50 in discounts.
These factors, combined with recent additions and upgrades to Branson lodging, shopping and attractions, put the city in position to continue to attract growing numbers of travelers. Local tourism leaders project growth for 2008 between 2 and 3 percent over last year’s total visitor figure of 8.4 million.
Vacationfun.com attracts 1.85 million user sessions per year and is referenced as “America’s leading source of free official travel information.” The site enables travelers to research destinations and request information, by mail or electronically, from tourism organizations nationwide. Consumers requested more than 7.8 million visitor guides and brochures through VacationFun.com in 2007.
St. Louis captured the No. 2 destination spot on Vacationfun.com for the first half of 2008, followed by Boston, Savannah, Ga. and San Antonio.