measuring the effectiveness of tourism promotion

measuring the effectiveness of tourism promotion

October 17, 2010  |  current affairs, knowledge, main blog, management  |  No Comments

Governments, on behalf of taxpayers, are demanding more accountability for the return on investment of public funds allocated to tourism branding and promotion of destinations and events.  Accountability requires appropriate measurement of marketing effectiveness. Globally, there are few examples of systematic approaches to measurement, or even of the alignment of objectives to measurement.

 Brand image is measured by various brand health studies at both national and state level in Australia, but it is often difficult to determine what elements have been important in determining the holistic perception of accumulated beliefs and impressions in the consumers mind.  There is a mix of functional and tangible, as well as psychological and abstract elements that can be influenced by specific destination marketing and other externalities (like political decisions or the behaviour of sporting teams)

 Observers of, and those involved in the tourism industry, continue to lack discipline when making claims about causes and effects from tourism marketing. The worst offenders are those who try and draw direct correlations between advertising campaigns in source markets and international visitor arrivals. Not that the two are unrelated, but generally there is a failure to analyse other variables and to make conclusions about timing. “Arrivals are up, the ad must be working”, they offer in ignorance.

 Visitor arrivals to international markets are determined by four key factors. These are:

 1.       A “go/no go” decision about travel based on attitude to risk and safety

2.       Economic conditions in the source market

3.       Ease and cost of access to the destination (which includes the impact of exchange rate)

4.       Consumer intent (as opposed to awareness) to visit, which is based on perception of the opportunity in the context of alternative destinations. That perception can be influenced by accumulated thoughts and ideas, as well as specific promotions/campaigns.

 In the international context, measurement should at least attempt to control the variables or pursue more complex multivariate analysis. Even then, it is difficult to assess the difference between actual visits at a point in time and subsequent visitation, which may have been influenced by the impressions made previously.

 At a domestic level, where decisions are between staying home or travelling overseas, interstate or intrastate, measurement is less complex. At an event level, factors determining attendance can be measured with more accuracy. Greater complexity arises where measurement is required of the impact of the event on the brand and perception of the destination that is hosting the event. 

 What are the solutions? It is important to have clear objectives for any marketing activity and to align measurement to them. If the objectives are around brand building, analysis needs to include holistic impressions and open ended questioning, and can include the impact of promotion of the destination and of events on the brand. Measurement of marketing activity should be systematic and rigorous, searching for cause and effect at points of decision making. Web based marketing enables a more direct and sophisticated analysis based on web metrics. It is time for the tourism industry to adopt a greater level of professionalism and degree of rigour to measuring the impact of the Government funds applied to the sector – funds which cannot hope to be guaranteed into the future.

a leadership crisis

I’m glad our current political leaders are not running businesses. The liquidators would be working overtime. Where is the context? Where is the strategy? Where is the mid to long term thinking? Where is the courage to forge public opinion rather than follow it?

In yesterday’s press (Aug 6), there were three items that were poignant.

Firstly, the leaders of the major infrastructure businesses in Australia put the population and immigration debate in context. We need more people in this country. We are not at risk of being resource constrained. The boat people issue is a media and political beat up that panders to prejudice. Both parties are guilty of taking the easier option of limiting migration, rather than facing the challenges of infrastructure development for a bigger and better Australia.

Secondly, a letter to the SMH from Wayne Duncombe (no on-line link) suggests that we are “in an era where a few outer suburban seats dominated by selfish, narrow-minded voters ….will determine who holds government”. I guess the rejoinder is that we get what we deserve, but those of us in non-marginal seats do have courses of action available (see later).

Thirdly, Ross Garnaut, in his Hamer Oration, criticised both major parties for lack of leadership in climate change. He said that it represents the “nadir of the early 21st Century political culture, in which short term politics and accession to sectional pressures has held sway over leadership and analysis of the national interest”. Leadership does seem to be an essential ingredient missing in public policy today.

It is surprising that since the elevation of a conservative over a moderate (or social progressive) in the Liberal Party, that vision on issues like climate change is lacking. Malcolm Turnbull and Joe Hockey showed great courage in their stance on the ETS. Sadly, we won’t progress on this issue under conservative control of the Coalition. Tony’s own definition of a conservative in his book Battlelines, is “someone who is focussed on precedent”.

I am more disappointed with the ALP, starting from the time that Kevin Rudd dropped the ball on climate change after Copenhagen. NZ saw fit to introduce and ETS and China will follow soon. The subsequent pandering to the polls and electorate on this and other issues by the incumbent PM is sad, and as it is transpiring, counter-productive to her re-election.

Australians are demanding vision, courage and leadership. In the unlikely event that the trend identified by Ross Garnaut is turned around, what can we do? Parliaments in a democracy can be a handbrake on progress, but a democracy does allow free expression of speech. As we have seen with organisations like Get Up, movements of like-minded individuals will increasingly be responsible for telling the story, creating awareness and shifting public opinion. The politicians will then have no choice but to legislate.

We are also likely to see a fresh force in politics that represents forward thinking, social progressiveness and authenticity in a global context. A fresh force that is not only sought by Gen Y voters, but also by some old baby boomers like me! Now that the ALP seems to have deserted this space, Bob Brown’s successor (hopefully someone in the Nick McKim mould), will have the opportunity to create a modified Greens Party with a broader social agenda – one that could transform the political landscape.

a quiet revolution begins

 Did you know that well before white explorers and settlers in this Australia, the Chinese, often through traders from Sulawesi, were active traders with the residents of this country? They respected the owners of this vast land and treated them with respect, as  Warren Mundine reminded Richard Fidler recently. More than 220 years after white men treated our country’s owners as savages, showing little respect or understanding, we don’t seem to have made a lot of progress….but there are some encouraging signs.

I’ve always held the view that decisions are easy if you have the right information. It could be argued that lack of information (and hence understanding) led to the attitudes of Arthur Phillip and subsequent boat people. One can only wonder how things might have been today with a different approach.

While it is impossible to generalise about the evolution of the attitudes of non-aboriginal Australians over the last two centuries, we have seen various combinations of aggression, intolerance, prejudice, dispossession, platitudes, tokenism and interference, there are some positive signs as awareness of issues grows more broadly in the community.  In fact my colleague John Morse, author of A Shared Vision, calls it a quiet, dignified revolution.

One of the most significant enablers of this quiet revolution was the apology to the stolen generation in February 2008. It was no silver bullet to reconciliation and progress, but it did lift a heavy cloud. From the aboriginal perspective, it was highly symbolic and cathartic. From the perspective of the non-aboriginal residents of Australia, it seemed to give permission and legitimacy to engage in forward focussed dialogue with less guilt. Most Australians carry huge good will and hope for their aboriginal brothers and sisters – but don’t know how to interface and react.

The piecemeal, hand out mentality is not a solution to the many issues faced by aboriginal communities. Treatment of symptoms is always short term and as Tania Major argues, boosts the addiction to passive welfare.  She argues persuasively against the “one size fits all” approach as seen in the NT intervention.

O'Loughlin and Goodes at work

The GO Foundation

The approach of the GO Foundation is impressive. Formed by Sydney Swans legends Adam Goodes and Michael O’Loughlin, who both feel a keen sense of responsibility to their people, GO Foundation zeroes in on root causes. The initial project in Dareton identified the reasons for domestic violence and alcoholism by talking with the people affected. Having then identified solutions – such as a workshop for men – help from the corporate sector has been enlisted with materials and construction. The Foundation allows corporate Australia and aboriginal people to engage and helps indigenous Australians set life goals.

We need to work with aboriginal communities on many levels of problem solving and opportunity building. In every case solutions need to be owned by the aboriginal people and based on understanding and respect. I see amazing opportunities for aboriginal people to be involved in mainstream economic and cultural activity, rather than on the periphery. While tourism and AFL football have played an important role in providing incentives for aboriginal children, there are new role models coming forward in contemporary culture, business, land management and trade – just as the Chinese appreciated centuries ago.

beware reality television politics

 “Never underestimate the intelligence of the electorate” has become a throw-away line in Australian politics. A more relevant mantra for the next election might be, “never underestimate the desire of the electorate for authenticity and leadership”.

In this era of poll driven politics, there is a growing concern from informed Australians about decision makers in the Parliament seeking populist solutions. There seems to be less appetite from those in power to form policy based on principles, on sound analysis and with longer time horizons. The balance between consultation and leadership has swung to consultation as those at the helm (I hesitate to use the term leaders), fear being voted off in today’s reality television politics.

Why should this worry politicians? Voters are changing as society norms change and as awareness and knowledge grow at an alarming rate. Voters who decide elections (as opposed to those locked into their fixed loyalties, beliefs and prejudices) have never been better informed. They are also looking for meaning and authenticity – as they are in their work and personal lives. Their bullshit detectors have never been more finely tuned. They are increasingly intolerant of political opportunism and of leaders who play the man rather than the ball.

Polls and surveys reflect opinions about the known world at a point in time. They don’t measure responses to a different world, one which can be created when a leader takes a stand on a clearly articulated principle. For example, Julia Gillard appears to have lost an opportunity to tap into the latent values of an informed electorate on the complex asylum seeker issue.  A more humanitarian line on asylum seekers, is a potential election winner. Courageous leadership and clear communication around the context and principles used in reaching such a position, has the potential to actually change attitudes – and as a result the polls. Espoused views can and will shift as people are given permission to allow their better understanding and desire for authenticity, to be expressed.

Another sleeper is climate change. We saw the exodus of swinging voters to the Greens as the Government dropped the ball on their previously expressed principles. I have written previously about the Moderate Green Majority, environmentally conscious Australians who are waiting for clearly communicated logic and policies to follow leadership – leadership based on issues and outcomes, rather than on responses to polls in their known world.

Have we seen the last of courageous leaders like Jeff Kennett and Paul Keating? Is considered decision making and vision being eroded by reality television politics and polls? Both of the major parties are being seduced by populism and are missing the opportunity to win respect and votes through courage and true leadership. If they fail to see the light, watch out for the emergence of a powerful third force that provides principle, freshness and authenticity, in much the way that Nick McKim has achieved in Tasmania.

hope, optimism and high expectation

 Mates often give me grief about looking through rose coloured glasses. When you’re a “glass half full” person, it’s a challenge to strike the right levels of hope, optimism and expectation. Kevin Rudd’s recent demise led me to dust off my article from the 2020 Summit, which highlights the difference between having positive expectations about what we want (hope), and assigning a high probability to those outcomes (optimism). At the time, I wrote:

The spirit of optimism, hope and inspiration, in abundance at the 2020 Summit, reminded me of the mood that engulfed Sydney during the Olympic Games. Equality, respect, enthusiasm and pride in being Australian, transcended personal biases and partisan views.  This Summit was about starting a dialogue right around Australia that will continue. It has energised and enabled people to feel listened to, and relevant. Let’s hope that the infectious enthusiasm and debate generated by the Summit can continue throughout Australia as part of the fabric of our society. Let’s also hope that the culture of the weekend – where different views were offered and listened to, where there are no rights or wrongs, where opposing arguments can coalesce in consensus – transcends our lives and cuts through the dogma, parochialism and inflexibility that are all too common. 

Only 27 months later, the central figure giving stimulating the hope and optimism was removed from office. Why? Not because he offered hope, but because he failed to manage high expectation through effective delivery and relationship management. As a result, he dampened the hope and optimism of millions who believed in him. The danger in today’s world is that if hope rises and gets squashed too often, it struggles to rise again, giving oxygen to sceptics, shock jocks and conservatives preoccupied with precedent.  

High expectations, well managed (by parents, partners, or corporations) often lead to high performance and achievement. However, poor delivery and failure to bring people on the journey, mostly leads to spectacular falls. To make it even tougher, the bar is set high in this country as “tall poppy syndrome” and the media do their bit to foster “glass half empty”. That movement is also in full swing in the USA where the Murdoch media are doing a job on President Obama as he offers hope on ground breaking health reform.

 Markets love business leaders who “under promise and over deliver”. Effective sales men and women get rich on “under committing and over delivering”. They’ve learned to overcome that part of human nature that wants to promise what we think people want to hear. And yet we continue to fall into the trap. Setting unrealistic expectations can mean that an effort (like carbon pollution reduction) becomes the victim of its own promise. When we fail to deliver, excuses and denial become part of the landscape.

 Despite the constant negativity in parts of the Australian media and despite the natural resistance to change in every one of us, we need to encourage hope and optimism for a better world. Martin Seligman makes a strong link between “learned optimism” and happiness. Katie Couric explains the genetic programming of optimism and tells us that optimists live longer. Hope is a powerful motivator.

 Effective management of expectation is an enabler of legitimate hope and optimism, which can give people confidence, infectious energy and courage to become involved. We saw the start of that process at the 2020 Summit. Let’s hope that our political and community leaders, with the support of the powerful media, can embrace some issues that transcend politics and allow us to unite on some exciting journeys full of hope and optimism, against a background of realistic expectations. What are the most critical issues on that list?

maturity and dignity required on asylum seekers

 It would be uplifting to think that Australians had the maturity and dignity to deal with the challenging asylum seeker issue without the interference of politics and prejudice. A broader context needs to be seen – one which includes recognition that there are more than 50,000 illegal overstays (mostly from Europe) at any point in time, the fact that we have 300,000 legal immigrants annually, and an appreciation of the dire situations in countries from which the few hundred annual asylum seekers emanate. We also need to understand the legal requirements under the UN convention, capably outlined by Greg Barns in ThePunch on July 6  Simplistic calls to send the boats home are not acceptable on humanitarian grounds and in most cases, not legal.
Sensible outcomes will not be helped by “boat counts” and comments that deliberately fuel prejudices, often based on ignorance. I can understand certain sections of the media playing this tune, but just don’t understand the intolerance from some Christians in the Parliament, who can’t see the hypocrisy and contradictions between their publicly proclaimed faith and their public positions. To many of these people, it would appear that they can rationalise their Christian and humanitarian principles, as they lust for power in a world of poll driven politics.