May 21, 2018

Purdue tourism experts: Skip lines at Disney World and travel close to home

Liping Cai Liping Cai
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — During the countdown to Memorial Day, the kickoff to summer travel season, tourism and hospitality experts at Purdue University said vacationers should avoid crowded destinations in favor of a smaller, simpler trip.

Professor Liping Cai, who pioneered the cooperative branding model for rural destinations and currently studies branding and rural tourism, said rustic vacations are less disruptive and more controllable when it comes to the totality of a visitor’s experience.

“It’s the experience that matters, it’s not just attractions,” said Cai, director of the Purdue Tourism and Hospitality Research Center. “When families go to Disney World and line up for three hours for a 20-minute ride, parents satisfy the kids dream of being there, but the total experience for the family is very negative. Go beyond ‘been-there-done-that’ vacations, which can be more stressful than you think.”

Straightforward vacations take the guesswork out of planning a trip, making the experience more relaxing, Cai said, noting that simplicity and openness are characteristics of rural tourism.

Jonathon Day Jonathon Day
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“You’re not worrying about missing a flight; you’re not worrying about being mistreated on the flight; you’re not worried about storms coming your way and causing delays,” he said. “The fact the town doesn’t have many restuarants along the main street makes life easier. You don’t have to stress about which restaurant to go to, or worry about whether or not you made the wrong decision.”

Associate Professor Jonathon Day, author of the book “Sustainable Tourism and Responsible Travel,” said tourism leaves a footprint in places large and small. Day has worked in destinations around the world, from cities to small towns and villages, and helps communities get the best from tourism while avoiding some of the industry’s negative social and environmental effects.

“Even here in Indiana, tourism is one of the top 10 industries and top 10 employers,” said Day, a member of the Purdue Tourism and Hospitality Research Center. “Even in small communities, tourism is really a big deal and has a big impact economically, but also socially and environmentally, as well.”

Rural vacation

Tourism in rural destinations tends to have a limited negative impact, while a visitor’s dollar has a greater economic benefit when spent in local communities, rather than resorts or amusement parks, Day said.

 “As you plan your next getaway, remember your vacation dollar has power,” he said. “Choose to visit small businesses when you travel. Visit farmers markets and talk with local artists. Your souvenirs will be more interesting – your experience more authentic – and you’ll be supporting the local community.” 

Writer: Joseph Paul, 765-494-9541, 

Sources: Liping Cai, 765-494-8384,

Jonathon Day, 765-496-2084,

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