Spring break destination have different lures for males, females

February 04, 2002

University Park, Pa.--There's more to spring break than sun, surf and sex. Male and female college students have significantly different hopes for both how they'll spend their spring breaks at vacation hot spots and what they'll get from hospitality service providers when they're there, a Penn State researcher says.

Results from a survey of 534 students conducted by Anna Mattila, assistant professor in Penn State's School of Hotel, Restaurant and Recreation Management, and colleagues at Penn State, Arizona State University and San Diego State University, show that female students place greater importance than males on attractive prices and destination image when deciding where to go for spring break. Females also have higher expectations regarding lodging prices, service quality and availability of nice restaurants at their final choice. The survey volunteers were enrolled at universities in the northeastern and southwestern United States and averaged 21 years in age.

"The students' responses indicate that they want to have relaxation, adventure and excitement during spring break regardless of their gender or religious beliefs," says Mattila, who co-authored a paper on the subject in the November 2001 issue of the Journal of Travel Research. "But there's much more going into their decisions than just the hype over sunbathing, swimming, partying and--maybe--finding a sex partner."

While it's no surprise that students' gender and religious beliefs affected the importance of partying, sexual opportunities and alcohol/drug availability to their spring break destination choices, the gender differences related to service factors also present a challenge to the hospitality industry, according to Mattila. "A better understanding of college students' spring break behavior could help improve tourism and hospitality marketing efforts to them," says the Penn State faculty member "Promoting the reputation of the party scene at a spring break location will attract a lot of the guys, but advertising a fun, nonsexual image--particularly in terms of attractive prices for good quality services--should work better with many of the girls."

Thus, to get the best of both worlds, the researchers suggest that spring break promoters use targeted, destination-oriented advertising in conjunction with health education and social responsibility campaigns. Mattila says this could help towns and resorts that need the tourism dollars in these tough economic times minimize the fallout from rowdy behavior, and at the same time, gain a marketing edge over competitors targeting the same audience.

Joining Mattila on the project were Yorghos Apostolopoulos, research associate professor of sociology, and Sevil Sonmez, assistant professor of recreation management and tourism, both of Arizona State University; Lucy Yu, professor of health policy administration at Penn State; and Vinod Sasidharan, assistant professor of recreation, parks and tourism at San Diego State University.
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Penn State

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