Which Demographics Travel To Austin’s SXSW?

Austin’s South by Southwest (SXSW) is one of the most popular festivals in the United States. While its heart and soul lies in music, the week-long festivity includes exhibitions of art, comedy, food, film, and even business and interactive media. For vacation rental hosts and property managers in Austin, SXSW is undoubtedly the most profitable time of year. Taking place in mid-March when the Texas heat has yet to fully take hold, the festival coincides with many travelers spring vacations.

Here at AllTheRooms Analytics, we’re dedicated to providing data insights on the short-term rental industry. In addition to focusing on KPIs like ADR and occupancy rate, it’s equally important to understand who exactly travelers are. Especially for DMOs and government agencies, understanding metrics like age, gender, and place of origin are extremely useful.

After analyzing Airbnb data, we found SXSW significantly transformed the demographic makeup of Austin’s vacation rental market. Here’s a rundown as to what changed, by how much, and why.

Analytics Methodology

Based on an array of proprietary machine-learning algorithms, our team of data analysts and industry experts is able to derive ‘origin data’ — information on the age, gender, and state (or country) of origin for anyone who leaves a review on Airbnb. For this study, we compiled origin data and separated it into two groups: non-event travelers (those visiting Austin during the month prior to, or the month after, SXSW) and event travelers (those visiting Austin during the 10-day period from March 7th to March 17th, 2019). Here are the unique demographic distinctions we found between event and non-event travelers.

Where Did Guests Travel From?

SXSW draws crowds from around the world. If it wasn’t clear before, origin data paints a vivid picture as to how far people travel to take part in the event.

Domestically, SXSW 2019 drew visitors from 49 states as well as Washington D.C. The largest feeder states included Texas (31.6% of travelers), California (11.4%), New York (5.2%), and Illinois (3.5%).

In terms of international travelers, SXSW was represented by an impressive 46 countries. While guests visited from places as far as Turkey, Peru, Palau, Taiwan, and the UAE, most international visitors came from Canada, the U.K, Germany, Australia, and Brazil.

Impact on Age Demographics

While states and countries of origin can help direct marketing strategies and provide useful information for hosts and tourism experts, travelers’ age is arguably the most important factor in demographics studies.

As seen by the charts below, 2019’s SXSW caused interesting shifts in the demographics of Airbnb guests throughout Austin. The red bars represent non-event travelers (those visiting between February 7th and March 7th, as well as those visiting between March 17th and April 17th), and the blue bars represent those visiting during the event.

The most glaring takeaway is the dominance of millennial travelers. Comprising 63.1% of the market, millennial travelers were the overwhelming majority. There’s plenty hosts and property managers can do with this information. Knowing that millennials are looking for local, authentic experiences, are keen on sustainability, cost-conscious, and willing to make spontaneous, last-minute spending decisions, can help hosts tailor their strategies accordingly.

Unsurprisingly, another age-related trend is the decrease in the number of baby boomers visiting Austin during SXSW. For the non-event time frame, baby boomers represent 5.3% of the market. During the event, this number drops down to 1.6%.

Impact on Gender Demographics

Another intriguing trend to note is the effect of SXSW on gender demographics. In nearly every age demographic, the percentage of female travelers in Austin dropped during the event period.

Correspondingly, vacation rental hosts in Austin saw a significant uptick in the number of male travelers during the event. In fact, in terms of all categories, the biggest difference noted was the increase in the number of male millennials from 29.4% to 34.3%.

This trend isn’t entirely abnormal, either. According to a study conducted by Eventbrite, the average age of an avid festival goer is 32, and about 59% are male. They’re also affluent — earning more than $75,000 per year — and their favorite genres are alternative rock and pop. Why the scales tilt this way isn’t entirely clear, but it is clear that hosts and property managers should market towards this demographic.

Lastly, in terms of gender, it’s interesting to note that the only category in which the percentage of women increases at the onset of the event was generation Z.

How is Origin Data Being Utilized to Improve Guest Experiences?

When used in conjunction with key performance indicators like ADR, RevPAR, and occupancy rates, origin data tells a compelling story about how an event can impact the demographics of a short-term rental market. In the case of SXSW, we saw a huge diversity in where guests traveled from, as well as interesting trends in regards to age and gender. Even though the themes may seem subtle, honing in on the intricacies of travel demographics is extremely helpful in marketing, managing, and analyzing a vacation rental market.

For example, if hosts and property managers in Austin determine that the vast majority of their out-of-state guests are coming from California and New York, they can choose to focus marketing efforts in those regions. Display advertising, paid-per-click advertising, and email marketing can be deployed in areas where hosts know guests are coming from.

Additionally, if hosts in New York learn that a large portion of guests are traveling from Spanish-speaking countries, they’d be smart to include a Spanish language version of their website or property description.

Age is another category around which hosts are tailoring guest experiences. If property managers in New Orleans are learning that some seasons lure older demographics (like the NOLA Jazz Festival), while other seasons attract younger demographics (Mardis Gras), they may have various welcome packs and “things to do” recommendations. Origin data can give hosts (and hotels) unique ways to tailor everything from interior decorations to food and amenities (especially those that are family and pet-friendly).

If you and your team want to benefit from comprehensive vacation rental data that highlights the demographics of any given rental market, contact us.