Relic Agency


4 Reasons Why Destinations Need to Embrace Using Data

In the rapidly evolving world of destination marketing, relying on data is essential. On a recent episode of the Destination Marketing Podcast, Adam had the opportunity to dive into the importance of data planning with Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall, Visit Salt Lake CEO Kaitlin Eskelson, and Zartico CEO Sarah Lehman. These women gave valuable insights into how Visit Salt Lake has thrived because of its partnership with destination data company Zartico. From event planning to campaign running, using data strategically can transform the way destinations engage with their audience. 

The Importance of First-Party Data

Information directly collected from consumers offers unmatched insights into consumer behavior and preferences. For instance, expanding collection methods from simple newsletter databases to app usage has proven to be a game-changer. Now, organizations can see where visitors are coming from, how long they stay at a destination and the hotspots that most tourists hit while they’re there. This expansion allows for a more profound understanding of what your audience truly desires and how they interact with your brand​​.

Companies like Zartico enhance this process by assisting destinations in collecting and interpreting valuable information to tell compelling stories. Zartico’s work in competitive benchmarks and growth analysis provides destinations with a clear understanding of where people are moving, enabling them to tailor their marketing strategies effectively. 

How Destinations Can Plan For the Future

Planning for the future in destination marketing means leveraging data to make informed decisions. As Sarah Lehman explained, destinations need to both manage the present and plan for the future. “If you have a roadmap for the next 10, 20 years, how can we use data to make better-informed decisions regarding your visitor economy?”

A perfect example of this is Zartico and Visit Salt Lake’s collaboration in planning for 2023’s NBA All-Star game. This game was Salt Lake City’s first big event post-COVID, and Visit Salt Lake partnered with Zartico to prepare for the event. The organizations collected information from the 2019 All-Star game held in Charlotte, North Carolina. They based their strategies on when visitors arrived, how long they stayed, how they used public transport, what restaurants they went to and much more. Salt Lake City was able to model a lot of their strategy on that report, and the 2023 All-Star game became the highest economic driving event SLC has ever seen. Zartico and Visit Salt Lake’s collaboration shows how vital planning and data are to success.

A significant aspect of a data-first strategy is ensuring this future alignment among stakeholders. When your stakeholders are on the same page, utilizing this data becomes more straightforward and cost-effective and tourism becomes a community-shared value. Data helps identify peaks to fortify and gaps to fill. If you have the information to be able to understand where your visitation peaks, valleys and patterns are, your stakeholders can proactively plan for these. 

Data Helps DMOs Understand the Traveler

Grasping the intricacies of the modern traveler may seem daunting, but data simplifies it significantly. While each tourist is different, but they all have patterns that DMOs can capitalize on. By delving into data points such as visitor behavior and preferences, destinations can tailor their marketing strategies to address specific needs. For instance, if your research shows that there are visitation spikes during the winter months, destinations can integrate this new audience into their brand strategy and capitalize on this new audience early. This understanding leads to more effective storytelling and community engagement, using data to convey a narrative that resonates with both visitors and residents​​.

Data Can Help Drive Resident Development 

One of the most profound impacts of a data-first approach is its ability to benefit both tourism and resident development. Says Kaitlyn Eskelson, “You build for quality of life first, and then visitors will come.” By harnessing data effectively, DMOs can transform organizationally, becoming more efficient and responsive to both visitors’ and residents’ needs. This dual focus on tourism and resident development ensures a more sustainable and community-focused approach to destination marketing​​.

The shift towards a data-first approach in destination marketing is not just a trend but a necessary evolution. By harnessing first-party data, planning strategically for the future, understanding travelers and focusing on both tourism and resident development, destinations can create more impactful, efficient and community-centric marketing strategies.