Travel Habits of US Hispanics

The US Bureau of the Census defines persons of Hispanic origin or descent through a self-identification process.  Thus, people are asked to select their origin from a list.  Persons of Hispanic origin, in particular, are those who indicated that their origin was Mexican-American, Chicano, Mexican, Mexicano, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Central or South American, or other Hispanic.  

In the last Current Population Survey, which was completed in March 1997, there were 25,779 thousand persons of Hispanic origin.  Of these, 6,937 thousand were from Mexico, 904 thousand were from Cuba, 2,875 thousand from Central and South America and 646 thousand were other Hispanic origin (such as Spain).  These are large numbers indeed, with a major impact on society, both in the USA and in their countries of origin.  For example, it is sometimes said that the largest city in El Salvador is San Salvador, but the city with the next largest number of Salvadorans is Los Angeles (USA).  

To quote Caren Kaplan (see reference at the bottom of this page), 

"The twentieth century can be characterized as a time when increasing numbers of people have become disengaged or dislocated from national, regional, and ethnic locations or identities.  As travel, changing locations, and leaving home become central experiences for more and more people in modernity, the difference between the ways we travel, the reasons for our movements, and the terms of our participation in this dynamic must be historically and politically accounted for.

In the midst of these displacements, new concerns over borders, boundaries, identities, and locations arise.  In most theoretical accounts, the influx of immigrants, refugees, and exiles from the "peripheries" to the metropolitan "centers" both enriches and threatens the parameters of the nation as well as older cultural identities.  Yet definitions of locations as "centers" and "peripheries" only further mystify the divides between places and people.  Centers are not impermeable, stable entities of purely defined characteristics that come to be contaminated and threatened by "others" from elsewhere.  Rather, the large metropoles that draw waves of new populations are dynamic, shifting, complex locations that exchange goods, ideas and culture with many other locations."

Compared to a hundred years ago, the nature of travel has changed radically.  An immigrant from a hundred years ago may spend weeks, if not months, to reach the destination by sea, and may in fact never return home because of the length and cost of such a trip.  Today, air travel is affordable to most people, and one can reach anywhere in Latin America in less than a day.  The world is also smaller as information flows rapidly all over the globe through the many types of media.

Cunard Line cruise ship in San Juan, Puerto Rico
(photo credit: Deborah Levy)

In this article, we will treat the subject of the travel habits of US Hispanics.  We will draw on some research data taken from the Total Audience Survey conducted by Magazine Metrics in 1997.  This is a mail survey of over 18,000 adults (age 18+) drawn as a representative sample of the total population in the USA.  

First, we looked at the overall travel patterns.  We can classify trips by their destination (international vs. U.S. domestic) and their purposes (business, leisure and combined).  Out of the six categories, the US Hispanic adults have higher incidences in five of them.  In the case of pure leisure trips, the US Hispanic adults are more apt to choose an international destination over a US domestic one.

Type of Trip Taken in Last 12 Months

Type of trip taken in last 12 months

% US Total Adults % US Hispanic Adults
International business   6%   9%
International leisure 22% 26%
International business/leisure combined   5%   8%
US domestic business 18% 20%
US domestic leisure 56% 51%
US domestic business/leisure combined 12% 14%

(Source: Total Audience Survey, Magazine Metrics)

Avianca plane in Bogotá, Colombia
(photo credit: Paul Donato)

Leisure travel occurs more often than business travel.  A leisure trip can also be classified by type, as in the following table.  The US Hispanic adults are most (and more) likely to take family vacations.  Otherwise, their preferences are not significantly different from Total Adults, with the small exception of being less likely to have sports/adventure vacations.

Type of vacation taken in the last 12 months

Type of Vacation Taken in Last 12 months %US Total Adults %US Hispanic Adults
Family vacation 44% 48%
Weekend /holiday getaway 35% 37%
Visit amusement park 21% 21%
Visit historic park 17% 18%
Visit national park 17% 16%
Gambling trip 15% 17%
Sun and sand 14% 16%
Sports vacation 11% 8%
Singles trip 10% 10%
Adventure trip 10%   7%
Group sightseeing trip   6%   5%
All-inclusive resort   4%   5%
Honeymoon   2%   3%
Spa vacation   2%   2%

(Source: Total Audience Survey, Magazine Metrics)

American Airlines plane in La Paz, Bolivia
(photo credit: Pablo Verdin)

The table below shows the geographical destinations for vacation.  Indeed, US Hispanics are twice as much likely to visit Mexico, Central America and South America.  Marketers would clearly realize that this is a high-incidence group with a different set of attitudes and motives.

Vacation Destinations in Last 3 Years

Destination visited in last 3 years for vacation %US Total Adults %US Hispanic Adults


  3.0%   2.1%
Hawaii   6.4%   5.7%
Continental USA 39.7% 34.6%
Mexico 10.1% 19.9%
Central America   1.9%   4.0%
South America   1.7%   4.2%
Caribbean Region   9.0% 11.7%
Western Europe   6.3%   6.0%
Eastern Europe   2.0%   2.2%
Asia   2.2%   2.0%
Australia   1.3%   1.0%
Africa   0.7%   0.6%
Middle East   1.1%   1.0%

(Source: Total Audience Survey, Magazine Metrics)



(posted by Roland Soong on 10/31/99)

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