Impact of Marijuana Legalization on Travel to Colorado

Patrick Surry - Feb. 4, 2014

Summary

Sale of marijuana for recreational purposes started in [Colorado](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/colorado/2EEu? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) on January 1st and the state reported sales of over $5 million in the first week (1).   This report investigates whether the legalization of marijuana has had an impact on the popularity of [Colorado](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/colorado/2EEu? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) as a destination.

Figure 1 compares search for flights to [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (solid line) to search for travel to any location in the US (dotted).  The scales are normalized to equate demand through November.  Through most of December [Colorado](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/colorado/2EEu? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) had similar relative popularity to the rest of the US, but starting at the end of December the popularity of [Colorado](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/colorado/2EEu? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) started to increase. On average, the relative demand for Denver has risen by 6.3% since December 1st, with a peak of 14% higher during the first week of January.  For comparison, Figure 2 plots relative demand for flights to [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) early last year when [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utm_campaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) was slightly below national search levels, suggesting this year’s spike is not just a regular seasonal effect.  Although Denver's also been in the news for their January playoff run, that doesn't seem to be a major factor causing increased traffic as neither of Denver's playoff opponent cities showed an above average demand.

Figure 1: Comparison of weekly search demand from all US origins to Denver vs. all US destinations.  The ratio of the two axes are set by equating total demand prior to December 1st.  Overall, demand for Denver has risen by 6.3% since December 1st, with a peak of 14% relative demand in the first week of January.

Figure 2: Last year flight search to Denver trended at or below US average in the early part of the year.

In order to further rule out the possibility that the popularity of [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) is increasing due to the skiing season we looked at search patterns to similar destinations.  Specifically we looked at [Albuquerque](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/albuquerque/20vK?utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch), Salt Lake City, and Jackson Hole.  Albuquerque, which is the nearest large mixed-use airport to [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) showed demand below the national average both last year and this year.  Ski-centric destinations ([Jackson Hole](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/jackson-hole/2DKV?utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch), Salt Lake City)  did show an increased demand for travel, but unlike demand for [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utm_campaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) which peaked in January, the increase in popularity of these places started in November.

Figure 3 shows all origins where flight search to [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) has increased at least 25% relative to average national demand since Dec 1st, chosen from the top 50 largest origins to [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch), namely [Nashville](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/nashville/2Bk5? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (63% increase), [Minneapolis](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/minneapolis/2FQC? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (58%), [Detroit](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/detroit/2Jgk? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (53%), [Cincinnati](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/cincinnati/220M? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (47%), [Madison](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/madison/2HEI? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (37%), [Cleveland](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/cleveland/1zuZ? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (37%), [Indianapolis](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/indianapolis/29ft? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (36%), [Milwaukee](http://www.hopper.com/searchintent?query=Milwaukee? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (35%), [Omaha](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/omaha/21R9? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (32%), [Kansas City](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/kansas-city/1yL7? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (30%), [Tampa](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/tampa/1zxk? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (29%) and [Houston](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/houston/24Zs? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utm_campaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) (28%).

With the exception of [Minneapolis](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/minneapolis/2FQC? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utm_campaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch), the locations of increase demand appear to correlate with stricter drug legislation (2).

Figure 3: Origins with at least 25% increase in search rates to Denver compared to the US average, amongst top 50 Denver origins.  Circle size shows search increase (Nashville up 63%, Houston 28%).

The top 10 cities by search volume to [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) are shown in Table 1 along with the relative increase or decrease in recent travel demand to [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch).  It can be seen that out of the top 10 only [Minneapolis](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/minneapolis/2FQC? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) and [Dallas](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/dallas/21nr? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) show the largest increase, while [Newark](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/new-jersey/21PV? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch), [Los Angeles](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/los-angeles/2CTT? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch), and [Washington](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/washington-d.c./21Qz? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) show a decrease in search volume for travel to [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch).  Only [Minneapolis](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/minneapolis/2FQC? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) shows up in both the top 10 most popular origins to [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utmcampaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch) and the top 10 cities with the highest increase in recent search for travel to [Denver](http://www.hopper.com/list/everything/in/denver/1vrR? utmsource=HopperResearch&utmmedium=CTR&utm_campaign=ReferralsfromHopperResearch).

City

Corresponding Airport

Change

New York

LGA

+10%

Newark

EWR

-3%

New York

JFK

+11%

Chicago

ORD

+16%

Los Angeles

LAX

-5%

Minneapolis

MSP

+58%

Chicago

MDW

+13%

Dallas

DFW

+19%

Houston

IAH

+10%

Washington

DCA

-4%

  Table 1: Top 10 origins to Denver showing the relative change in search rates for Denver since December 1st, adjusted for the change in search rates over all US origins.  

Note that the results presented in this study show correlation and not causation.

 1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/01/08/marijuana-sales-colorado_n_4552371.html

2. http://norml.org/laws/

Data and Methodology

The data presented in this analysis comes from Hopper’s combined feed of Global Distribution Service (GDS) data sources which includes about 10 million queries and 1 billion trips per day.  Demand is represented as the number of queries not actual ticket purchases, and is calibrated across all GDS sources for each market..  The analysis looked at a weekly average of searches between cities.

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