PurposeAnalyzing the main determinants that lead a traveler to make a cultural trip is an important issue to understand where the cultural tourism market is going, and where the decision-makers should intervene. This study helps develop a profile of cultural tourism participants, and underscore the changes in this market niche. This information is crucial for the successful marketing and development of cultural tourism in the future.Design/methodology/approachThe authors estimate a binary probabilistic (logit) model to determine the probability of a tourist to travel for cultural reasons, as a function of the traveler's socio-economic characteristic (e.g. age, gender, income or level of studies), of the trip-related characteristics (e.g. distance traveled to destination or mode of transport) and of the characteristics of the province of destination (e.g. weather conditions or existence of cultural sites at destination).FindingsThis study’s estimates reveal that middle-aged individuals, with a higher level of studies and with a medium level of income show a higher propensity to travel for cultural reasons. The latter finding evidences that cultural tourism has evolved from a niche market reserved for an elite clientele to a much wider range of people. Additionally, cultural travelers tend to travel statistically much longer distances. They are less prone to visit crowded destinations, prefer visiting destinations with important cultural sites, and are less sensitive to weather conditions. Finally, the authors discover a complementary effect of culture tourism and other activities carried out during the trip such as visiting cities or theme parks; and a substitution effect with “beach-and-sun” tourism.Practical implicationsThe information given in this study can be crucial for the successful marketing and development of cultural tourism in the future. A better understanding of the main determinants of being a cultural traveler implies a better and a more efficient implementation of managerial and political measures to attract a kind of tourism characterized by a high spending capacity.Originality/valueDiscovering the main determinants of being a cultural traveler is a topic scarcely treated in the literature. This study has the main originality to include characteristics of the destination (pull factors) to explain the individual's decision to take a cultural trip. Moreover, the authors work at a provincial (NUTS-3) level of analysis, which makes this study original in the field of cultural tourism.

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