Beer-trail maps and the growth of experiential tourism

  • Alison E. Feeney Shippensburg University
Keywords: beer trails, craft breweries, tourism, quantitative content analysis, map design


A well-designed map can influence tourists’ activities, yet tourist maps and their designs remain under-examined in the cartographic literature. Today, many Americans are traveling to indulge in new food and drink experiences, which can potentially increase revenues in other related tourist amenities. Specifically, travel to craft breweries is increasing, and tourism agencies throughout North America promote beer trails. This study identified 100 beer trails promoted by official tourism agencies, inventoried how many of those trails’ marketing materials included a map, and evaluated those maps using Quantitative Content Analysis (QCA) for common design elements. The overall goal of the project was to determine if the maps featured only the breweries or if they promoted visiting additional experiential activities that contributed to the creation of a sense of place, and that in turn, may provide potential benefits to the travel destination.

The results found that tourism agencies aggressively advertise local breweries, but the maps developed for beer trails significantly underutilize effective cartographic principles and do not promote other regional activities. Most trail maps were made with Google Maps, an effective tool for navigation, but one that often produced unbalanced layouts and did not use symbology to effectively emphasize tourist activities. Additionally, Google Maps tends to suggest travel on main roads or highways rather than smaller back roads that are more likely to host additional local activities. A limited number of maps were artistically designed to focus the viewer’s attention on the regional landscape and other available activities, but were designed in a highly generalized, cartoon-like style. Only two agencies mapped breweries along with suggested routes and additional activities using symbols, colors, fonts, and pictures appropriate for the age demographic of their market audience.

Author Biography

Alison E. Feeney, Shippensburg University
Geography and Earth Science Department, Associate Professor
How to Cite
Feeney, A. E. (2017). Beer-trail maps and the growth of experiential tourism. Cartographic Perspectives, (87), 9-28.
Peer-Reviewed Articles