I recently went on vacation in a major U.S. city to offer city passes to tourists. I had never used a city pass before, and was intrigued by the idea. Since my trip, I’ve done some research and found that most large U.S. cities offer some type of city pass that allows tourists to visit several of the city’s attractions for a relatively low price. The tourists save money on visiting the sites, but the cities receive several benefits as well. Here are three of the reasons why larger cities offer the city passes to tourists:
Reason one: to encourage repeat visits by showing the best sites to tourists. I’m sure that there are some cities that make the mistake of including a lousy museum or two in the package that they give to tourists via city passes, but we can probably say with confidence that most cities get the city pass right. The purpose of showing tourists a city’s best sites is to encourage the tourists to come back and visit the city again. At a minimum, tourists who were blown away by the best sites in a city are likely to recommend the city to friends and other potential tourists. Consequently, the city benefits by showing off its best sites via city pass.
Reason two: to maximize income from tourists on the current visit. On a week-long visit to a new city you might typically pay for admission to two or three museums, and spend the rest of your time wandering. With a typical city pass though, you pay a little more and visit five or so sites. In that way, many cities maximize income from tourists by giving tourists a reason to visit more sites. As a tourist, for example, you might find that you can visit three city sites for $60, but if you pay $80 for a city pass you can visit two more sites. These last two sites seem like a bargain, so you pay the extra money. Sites get some business that they would not otherwise have, and you see a couple more attractions.
Reason three: to distribute tourist traffic among the city’s various tourist areas. Imagine a city that has five excellent tourist sites located in different areas of the city. If you are planning a vacation to such a city, you might simply choose two or three sites that you want to visit, rather than endure the hassle of traveling all over the place. But if the economics of the city pass persuaded you to buy, you would instead travel all over the city to visit those sites, paying for transportation and food as you went. That’s how the city would make a little extra money from you.
For each of the above reasons, large U.S. cities offer city passes to tourists. These passes can be a great bargain for tourists, but they also benefit cities in many ways.