How to measure the real impact of your tourism marketing

Your budget is tightening. You need new visitors to spend in your destination, but you probably have fewer marketing dollars to make it happen. It’s crucial to reach the right people efficiently and understand the real impact of your efforts.

While ROI measurement is a challenge for all marketers, it can be an even greater challenge for destination marketing organizations, who need to answer to taxpayers for every dollar they spend on marketing efforts.

Considering the tourism industry’s current methods of marketing and associated challenges with measurement, that’s no easy task.

Tourism measurement challenges

Tourism marketers today are typically measuring success in two ways:

  1. Soft metrics. This includes metrics like click-through rates, video completion rates, brochure downloads or email sign-ups. We consider these “soft” because they don’t actually tell you if someone booked a trip to your destination. These metrics are helpful for telling you about high-level engagement with your campaign, but they’re not tied to revenue for your destination.
  2. Bookings. Destination marketers can measure ROI through airline or hotel bookings in their destination as a result of marketing campaigns. This does take it a step further to show measured, quantitative impact on your marketing investment; however, this does fall short in showing all potential bookings from your campaign. For example, people may drive to your destination, or they may stay with friends or at a vacation rental—all of which would not be counted through airline or hotel bookings.

Additionally, many marketing partners can measure soft metrics and bookings using cookies and device IDs, but few have a view of the consumer on the individual level.

With only cookies and device IDs for measurement, you’re unable to get an accurate view of who actually visits your location and what they spend across categories while they are in your destination.

This gives you an extremely limited view into the net economic impact of your marketing efforts. Thankfully, there’s a better alternative.

Get to know your travelers for more accurate ROI

Instead of these soft metrics and bookings, your focus should be on achieving a holistic understanding of your customers—across, channels, devices and spending habits. A complete view of every customer helps you to understand how each person spends across retail, tours, restaurants, grocery and more while they’re in your destination—even if they don’t book a plane ticket or a hotel room.

With this information, you can understand the true net economic impact of each individual’s trip based on actual transactions. You can connect individual online behavior with offline spend, giving you the full picture of your marketing attribution.

Let’s say Susan has been searching online for a warm weather vacation. She recently purchased a new beach towel. She’s visited Miami in the past and has been reading travel blogs. You can serve her messaging across all of her devices to inspire her to take a trip to your beach town (all while protecting her privacy).

Once she sees the ads and visits your locale, you can measure all of her non-cash transactions—her trip to the grocery store to stock her rental’s kitchen, her fancy dinner out, the gas to fuel her rental car and more.

You can even use personalized messaging to showcase your destination after her initial visit in a meaningful way, reminding Susan of her past vacation and why she may want to visit again in the coming months.

Can your marketing partner deliver? Here are 4 key questions to ask.

To get this more accurate measurement of your marketing performance and its economic impact, you’ll need to make sure your marketing partner can provide you with the right data and services. Ask them these four questions to find out if they can offer you the insights you need to show successful marketing.

1.  Do you have a holistic view of each customer?

Most vendors don’t factor in offline sales, focusing only on cookies and device IDs, which expire over time (cookies after 90 days or less), making it difficult to connect with people over longer periods of time. You need to be able to talk to the people that have visited your destination in the past, which could be up to a full year ago.

2. Can you optimize media across personalized display and video?

Digital display is great for driving awareness, but video also has the power to showcase your destination’s unique differentiators in a compelling way. It’s important to work with digital marketing partners that can optimize your campaign based on which format works best and in what patterns.

For example, your team could find that showing two video ads to an individual and then following up with more display ads is the optimal media pattern. Your partner needs the skills, expertise and tools to identify these conversions and know why.    

3. How are you doing cross-device matching?

You also need to be able to understand each consumer across their multiple devices.

You should not just be putting impressions in front of devices—you need to put impressions in front of people, which is not easily understood in the online context. Here’s a good explainer of how you can recognize people online for more information.

4. How are they measuring impact?

If your marketing partner is focused on soft metrics or airline and hotel spend, you need to ask yourself if this enough for you. If you want more accurate measurement of your ROI and the ability to see that return across restaurants, nightlight, groceries and more, there is a much more comprehensive data set that shows breakout across previously unmeasured categories at your destination.

The bottom line

If you’re relying on online or booking metrics alone, you’re not measuring the full value of your ad dollars. You should be able to show all of your stakeholders how your marketing program boosted the economy, drove additional tax revenue and positively impacted the quality of life for residents.

This approach to better understanding your customers shows the real value of each of your transactors—as opposed to just the overall number of visitors—and should influence your marketing strategy moving forward. 

Interested in learning more? Learn more about how we work with destination marketers.