measuring the effectiveness of tourism promotion

measuring the effectiveness of tourism promotion

October 17, 2010  |  current affairs, knowledge, main blog, management

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.

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