A new study of middle- and upper-income travelers from throughout the West shows people are attracted to Idaho by the state's image of having friendly people and a good summer climate.

Results of the study, commissioned by the Idaho Department of Commerce and conducted by Marcept Consulting and Research, were reported to the state Travel Council at its meeting Tuesday in Boise."The study was conducted to establish a benchmark for Idaho's image and will be a useful tool for our long-range planning efforts," Commerce Director Jim Hawkins said. "The travel and tourism market is becoming more competitive and we need this information to help us guide our marketing and public relations programs."

Telephone interviews were conducted with consumers who vacation and have incomes of more than $30,000 in nine western cities. They included Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Diego, Sacramento, Calif.; Salt Lake City, Seattle, Spokane, Wash.; Phoenix and Portland, Ore.

The survey shows Spokane, Salt Lake City and Seattle deliver the most vacation travelers to Idaho. But Sacramento also surfaced as a strong candidate for future travel promotion efforts, while the study shows Portland is an "indifferent" market for Idaho.

"Travelers from the Portland metro area are less inclined to see Idaho as a desirable travel destination," said Carl Wilgus, administrator of the Commerce Department's Division of Travel Promotion. "Therefore, it's doubtful that we will invest in heavy promotion activities for that particular market."

Although a wide range of people come to Idaho for short and long vacations, the heaviest concentration of travelers are in the 55 to 64 age group with fairly substantial incomes. Among frequent travelers, Idaho does best in attracting adults 45 and older.

The study also examined Idaho's image in detail, comparing it with image profiles of surrounding states competing for travel dollars. Among the potential travelers interviewed, Idaho's outdoor attractions and clean environment were acknowledged as advantages. But summer climate and friendly people were the biggest factors in attracting travelers to the state.

A lack of attractions or things to do was listed as the biggest drawback to vacationing in Idaho.

"As some people put it, there is no Disneyland in Idaho," Wilgus said. "This does not necessarily mean that to be successful in the travel market Idaho needs to develop Disneyland-like attractions. Idaho clearly offers a different type of travel experience."

Wilgus said the perception that Idaho has few big-name attractions could be used to reinforce other positive images people have about the state such as its scenic beauty and lack of crowds.

Other positive factors cited in the survey were the favorable image potential travelers had of Idaho's economy and job market, as well as the state's low crime rate.

"People who consider relocating out of crowded metro markets are intrigued by the possibilities which Idaho offers, creating an underlying incentive for an Idaho vacation," said Tom Brown, president of Marcept. "This tendency is especially true among residents of San Francisco, Seattle, Los Angeles, Portland and Sacramento."