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More day-tripping, fewer vacation days for families managing four-day school weeks, study says

April 16, 2012

As of 2012, 13 Minnesota school districts have implemented a change to a four-day week. More districts are considering the switch. A study funded by the University of Minnesota Tourism Center’s Carlson Chair for Travel, Tourism and Hospitality sought to help the tourism industry understand the implications of this change, so that businesses can better adapt.
 
It’s reasonable to expect that the four-day school week is here to stay, at least for some districts. Under the new schedule, students attend school for a few more hours four days each week and get one additional day off. Summer vacation schedules remain the same as those in other districts.

For families, this means more three-day weekends. But what does this mean for Minnesota’s fun spots, hotels and the entire tourism industry? 

“We wanted to get beyond guess work and assumptions,” said Elton Mykerezi of the University of Minnesota’s Department of Applied Economics, principal investigator for the study. “We wanted to find out what was really happening with family’s travel patterns—how they change when kids’ schedules change.” 

The results are a mixed bag, with both good and bad news for the tourism industry. The good news? The four-day school schedule caused sizable increases in “day trips” —trips that are at least 50 miles away from home but require no overnight stay. The number and nature of weekend trips stayed the same. But parents reported significantly fewer trips of five days or more. In fact, one in three families took one fewer long trip over a two-year period. This resulted in fewer nights spent in hotels, and lower overall expenditures. Among households that traveled at least once, one in five took one fewer trip (a 49-percent change from the sample).

The study surveyed parents from four school districts with four-day schedules and five districts with traditional school weeks. The five-day districts chosen were contemplating four-day schedules. The survey collected information about travel patterns before and after the change, comparing those to the same time period in districts that hadn’t changed to a four-day week. 

This study did not address other school-year scheduling proposals or practices.

Parents were asked to describe the type of travel, the destination, the frequency of travel, the number of overnight stays, the number of travelers and expenditures during trips. Care was taken to control for other factors, such as household or economic circumstances. 

“The tourism industry must constantly adapt to the changing circumstances of travelers,” said Ingrid Schneider, Director of the University of Minnesota Tourism Center. “As schools and our Department of Education adapt to new circumstances, there will be ripple effects. We wanted to shed some light on those changes, in order to help the industry plan their marketing, staffing and development.”

The University of Minnesota Tourism Center is a collaboration of University of Minnesota Extension and the College of Food, Agricultural and Natural Resource Sciences. For more information on the Tourism Center, visit www.tourism.umn.edu.

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