Who are Michigan’s international air travelers and where are they coming from?

A survey analysis of Detroit Metropolitan Airport's international air travelers between 2014-2016.

Have you wondered where Michigan’s international visitors come from? What their interests are or why they came here in the first place? Or what do they do after arriving to Michigan’s biggest airport?

From 2014 to 2016, the U.S. Department of Commerce conducted the Survey of International Air Travelers (SIAT) across 14 U.S. international gateway airports in partnership with 70 airlines. Detroit Metropolitan Airport (DMA) was one of the airports where SIAT was conducted. Approximately 1,300 travelers were surveyed at airport gate areas and/or on-board aircraft. Participants in the survey responded to over 30 questions designed to measure attractions visited, length and purpose of trip, trip decision making, interests, and demographic information, such as residency, gender, age, and income. The results of that survey were made available in October 2017. Other than a brief section on the background of the study, the survey results were divided into four categories:

  1. Trip Planning
  2. Travel Patterns
  3. Travel Spending and Accommodations
  4. Traveler Demographics

So, where do Michigan’s international passengers reside? According to SIAT, the top five nationalities that visited Michigan the most during the two-year study were:

  1. Germany (16 percent)
  2. China (11 percent)
  3. United Kingdom (10 percent)
  4. Japan (10 percent)
  5. India (7 percent)

77 percent of those travelers to MI were traveling alone and only 10 percent were accompanied by their spouse/partner. Family/relatives accompanied only 8 percent and a business associate was traveling 5 percent of the time.

SIAT DMA also measured “business travel” to Michigan as well, and found that 47 percent of business travelers to MI were from Asia, 41 percent were from Europe, and only 8 percent were from South America. These results are regardless of entry point into the USA. 85 percent of business travelers to Michigan were alone and just 12 percent had an associate with them.

Leisure travel was also measured and, regardless of entry point, Europeans account for 56 percent, whereas Asians make up just 17 percent of passengers. South Americans (12 percent), Oceania residents (10 percent), and the Middle Easterners (3 percent) together also represent a significant percentage of leisure travelers to Michigan. 56 percent of leisure travelers were alone, 25 percent brought their spouse/partner. Family/relatives accompanied 15 percent of leisure travelers and friends joined only 4 percent visiting Michigan.

The SIAT DMA survey was also able to measure the “average length of US stays of travelers to Michigan”. Asian travelers averaged 25 nights, whereas Europeans averaged 11 nights. Both leisure and business travelers averaged 14 nights when visiting Michigan. Tourism is a major industry for Michigan, one that contributes significantly to the State’s economy and number of jobs. In fact, approximately 214,000 people are employed in Michigan’s tourism industry. And Michigan generated about 2.4 billion dollars in taxes from tourism in 2014. Michigan State University Extension works with local communities throughout the state to identify strengths and assets to leverage for tourism.

Tourism is a major industry for Michigan, one that contributes significantly to the State’s economy and number of jobs. In fact, Michigan generated about 2.4 billion dollars in taxes from tourism in 2014. Michigan State University Extension works with local communities throughout the state to identify strengths and assets to leverage for tourism.

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