Building a visitor retention strategy to increase destination loyalty

Destination marketing organizations (DMOs) are essential to driving interest from potential visitors. However, getting in front of the right people isn’t always easy. Typically, the options available to DMOs for marketing revolve around generic audiences based on broad demographics and overlook the importance of reaching out to past visitors.

From national programs for hotels, airlines and restaurants to a punch card at the local car wash, marketers understand that loyalty is critical to growing revenue. It’s all about re-engaging past customers—whether they are tried-and-true advocates for a brand or re-engaging a one-time purchaser.

The same applies for destinations—except with visitors instead of “customers.” Traditionally though, this has been hard for destination marketers to accomplish. Understanding who has visited their destination before and being able to reach those people again is no easy feat. But now, through the power of Epsilon’s Net Economic Impact (NEI) solution, DMOs can reach, message and model verified past visitors to entice them to come back.

Leaning on visitor loyalty is a proven strategy that has manifold benefits:

Efficiency with marketing spend

Reaching out to past visitors can also be a more cost-effective marketing strategy compared to targeting new visitors. Past visitors are already interested in your destination, so the chances of successfully enticing them to return are higher. The most important lesson in marketing is that a new customer is way more expensive to acquire than it is to re-engage an existing one, and that applies to destination marketing as well.

Return visitors spend more

Re-engaging past visitors for a second visit is crucial because their potential for spending is much higher. Since these people have already experienced the location, they are more likely to spend more on their subsequent visits. And it bears out in practice: In a recent client campaign for a DMO, we saw that returning visitors spend as much as 3x more than first timers. They’re more familiar with the destination; not only will they be excited to re-visit their favorite activities from their first stay, but they’ll also want to hit what they missed the first time around. They may have heard about a great restaurant, shop or activity while they were in town but the timing was off or already had a packed schedule. That subsequent visit is the perfect opportunity to do anything they may have missed.

Return visitors stay longer

In addition to spending more, past visitors are more likely to stay for a more extended period on their return visits. As they are already familiar with the destination and its offerings, they may feel more comfortable exploring it in-depth and at a more leisurely pace. This increased length of stay can lead to higher spending and a more significant economic impact on the local community.

Return visitors engage with the community

Past visitors are more likely to engage with the local community during their return visits. They have a deeper understanding of the local culture and customs and can easily build connections and interact with the residents in a meaningful way. This interaction not only enhances the overall visitor experience but also fosters a positive image of the destination, which can further drive future visits from other potential travelers.

How Epsilon can help

Epsilon’s Net Economic Impact (NEI) solution helps destination marketers reach and engage their past visitors. Our solution can work with any DMO to better understand their past visitors, so they can start marketing to them for a second (or third or fourth) visit.

And we’ve helped DMOs from all over the US, like Visit Franklin Tennessee and Visit Omaha, stay close to their past guests and reach potential new visitors. By better understanding a destination’s past visitors, the DMOs we work with can better identify their highest yielding target audiences, leading to revenue impact and economic growth for their beloved cities.

As destination marketing continues to evolve, it is essential to engage past visitors and build destination loyalty. By reaching these people, destinations can benefit from higher spending, longer stays, better community interaction and increased brand advocacy.

Learn more about how Epsilon can help you create a “loyalty program” for your destination.