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What makes a strong base for a good destination marketing plan?

To answer this question, we’ve created a quick guide of essential questions you need to ask both when defining your territorial promotion campaigns as well as to facilitate your strategic planning.

Through this guide, you can:

  • Enhance planning precision
  • Customise communication to target specific demographics and timing
  • Improve competitiveness in existing and potential markets
  • Maximise advertising investments by reducing unnecessary spending

INDEX

Objectives and KPI

  • 1. What are my objectives?
  • 2. Which KPIs should be tracked to evaluate the accomplishment of my objectives?

Target audience analysis

  • 3. What do travellers perceive about the destination overall and in specific sectors?
  • 4. What aspects of their stay do people appreciate the most (and the least)?
  • 5. What are people travelling?
  • 6. Who visits my destination and where do they come from?
  • 7. How much are travellers willing to spend to visit my destination?
  • 8. What is the trend in flight searches and bookings for my destination?
  • 9. How far in advance do people typically make their travel bookings?
  • 10. What are the trends in hotel pricing and occupancy?
  • 11. How do trends and target demographics evolve over time?

Supply analysis

  • 12. What are your destination’s USPs?
  • 13. What are the performance metrics compared to other competitors?
  • 14. What is the makeup and positioning of the available offerings?
  • 15. What are the primary events that influence tourism in my destination?

Tracking results

  • 16. What tools can I use for assessing the results?
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Objectives and KPI

1. What are my objectives?

As tempting as it may be, a constant increase in tourist traffic shouldn’t be your primary goal.

Instead, establish SMART objectives (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) to measure your marketing goals and results.

This approach allows you to focus on enhancing your destination’s allure for a specific demographic segment, such as honeymooning couples or families.

Similarly, you can choose to target tourists from particular markets within defined travel timeframes, such as the upcoming 12 months.

Another approach could involve refining the destination’s reputation based on its specific features, such as sustainability or honeymoon travel, or positioning it as an ideal spot for specific sports enthusiasts like golfers.

2. Which KPIs should be tracked to evaluate the accomplishment of my objectives?

It’s hard to measure the efficacy of your destination marketing if you’re not benchmarking your results.

This is where Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) come in.

Each KPI aligns with a specific objective, enabling you to gauge the success of your goals by measuring against these KPIs.

It’s also an effective way to share your performance with the stakeholders and shareholders of the destination.

Target audience analysis

To create an effective marketing campaign, it’s crucial to accurately define the individuals you are addressing.

Collect extensive data to profile your target audience: their preferences, behaviours, and travel or accommodation choices.

3. What do travellers perceive about the destination overall and in specific sectors?

Gaining insights into the satisfaction levels expressed online about the destination, encompassing both its entirety and individual activities is key to understanding people’s preferences.

For example, if the Sentiment Score and the volume of online reviews are notably high for restaurants and pizzerias, or museums, this clearly indicates the preferences of visitors to the destination and where they are more inclined to invest.

This insight serves as a valuable guide for determining focal points in your marketing communications.

 

4. What aspects of their stay do people appreciate the most (and the least)?

Semantic analysis of content shared on platforms such as TripAdvisor, Google, or Facebook reveals the most commonly discussed subjects in reviews and their corresponding level of appreciation.

This valuable information aids in crafting marketing messages and content for the destination’s website, landing pages, promotional videos, and social media advertisements.

Similarly, identifying areas that receive significant criticism can offer opportunities for improvement.

Criticisms help steer away from discussing weak points and guide enhancements in infrastructure and services for future promotional strategies.

(Semantic analysis based on topics of accommodations in Italy – source: D / AI Destinations)

 

5. What are people travelling?

Exploring the psychology of tourists involves examining how individuals make their travel decisions.

Learning the innate motivations guiding individuals towards particular travel experiences and tourist spots is crucial. 

Whether it’s about broadening cultural perspectives, enjoying nature, bonding with family, socialising, or pursuing fitness objectives—understanding these motivations can serve as essential themes to highlight in marketing communications for your destination.

6. Who visits my destination and where do they come from?

Knowing where travellers come from, their demographics, and languages spoken is essential for creating reliable customer personas.

Analysing visitor origins and the scope of tourism offers critical insights for DMOs, particularly in evaluating the effectiveness of targeted marketing strategies.

Assessing visitor origins and trends aids DMOs in recognising emerging markets for investment, identifying competitor-attracting areas lacking presence, and tailoring destination marketing campaigns effectively by considering variations in origins across time, seasons, and holidays.

Similarly, understanding the traveller demographics in the region—such as families, couples, individuals, and workers—offers insights into their movements throughout the year.

(Review of the tourist origin data for Berlin between November 2023 and May 2024, sourced from D/AI Destinations)

7. How much are travellers willing to spend to visit my destination?

Utilising data from credit card companies allows you to understand the spending patterns and preferences of travellers once they arrive at the tourist destination.

This plays a crucial role in refining your target audience profile and maximising marketing investments, promotions, and communication strategies.

8. What is the trend in flight searches and bookings for my destination?

The information regarding flight searches and actual bookings is crucial for crafting the tourists’ booking process.

It’s valuable to compare this data with that of competitors to gauge your standing among travellers based on their origin.

Ultimately, these insights enable you to evaluate the effectiveness of promotional efforts aimed at enhancing the destination’s appeal in specific markets.

9. How far in advance do people typically make their travel bookings?

Some travellers plan and book their trips 3 to 6 months in advance, particularly when travelling to distant locations. Meanwhile, others opt for spontaneous bookings, reserving for the upcoming month or even the approaching weekend.

Understanding the demographics of those making reservations, their timing preferences, and intended travel periods presents an overview of the booking process. This insight aids in tailoring the timing of your marketing campaigns, accounting for seasonal fluctuations and the originating markets of travellers.

 

10. What are the trends in hotel pricing and occupancy?

Alongside flight details, having information about both hotel and non-hotel accommodations is valuable.

  • How many hotel reservations are made in your destination?
  • How many private apartments are booked?
  • Do individuals lean towards direct purchases or platforms like Booking and Expedia?
  • What are their spending habits?
  • Do hotel bookings vary based on travellers’ origins?

These diverse insights contribute to creating a more precise profile of your target traveller.

 

11. How do trends and target demographics evolve over time?

The preferences and behaviours of individuals are subject to swift and constant change. The pandemic is a glaring example. 

While tourism has rapidly resumed in various regions, people’s attitudes, behaviours, and preferences changed. And destinations had to swiftly adapt their communication approaches and offerings.

Sadly, in the short term, climate emergencies and international conflicts are expected to accelerate the pace of change in the tourism sector. 

So constant monitoring of ongoing trends is crucial for destination marketing professionals, as circumstances can swiftly change, demanding prompt adjustments in strategy.

Supply analysis

After defining the profile of the audience you aim to engage, it’s crucial to ask pertinent questions about your offerings.

Assessing how well our provided services/products are tailored and effectively communicated to our chosen target is essential.

 

12. What are your destination’s USPs?

As outlined by destination expert Antonio Pezzano, “One of the commonly applied mainstream marketing theories in tourism is the Unique Selling Proposition (USP). However, relying solely on a few or a single attribute (the USP) to position a destination has notable limitations, particularly when considering vast areas like a country or a region.

The number of associations matters more than their quality. Put simply, the more times a destination is thought of as a vacation spot, the better.

In essence, when discussing the tourist image and positioning, remember a simple guideline: the broader and more intricate a destination, the wider the array of tourism products and images it can offer.

13. What are the performance metrics compared to other competitors?

Without a benchmark for comparison, analyses have limited value.

Identifying benchmark destinations and relevant parameters is essential to evaluate a destination’s performance.

For instance, the Piedmont Region consistently compares its Langhe Monferrato Roero area, celebrated for its exceptional wines, with similar enogastronomic regions such as Brunello, Chianti, Franciacorta, and Burgundy, both domestically and internationally.

These territorial comparisons are facilitated through insights provided by D/AI Destinations.

From a destination marketing standpoint, such analyses are instrumental in understanding the territory’s positioning and in devising tailored communication strategies.

 

14. What is the makeup and positioning of the available offerings?

Detailed analysis of each tourism sector—accommodation, dining, and attractions—enables a comprehensive understanding of the completeness and adaptability of your offerings.

An extensive overview of the Points of Interest (POIs) in the area, geolocated and mapped based on reviews, sentiment, and characteristics, is crucial to assess the destination’s appeal aligned with your target audience.

(Breakdown of Brazil’s tourism offerings in 2023 – source: D/AI Destinations)

 

15. What are the primary events that influence tourism in my destination?

Certain places attract visitors not only because of their artistic or natural allure, but also due to big events that draw global attention. For instance, events like Rio Carnival, Venice Carnival, or the running of the bulls in Pamplona are closely connected to these locations in people’s minds.

This is why monitoring tourism activities during these events is extremely important. Analysing and comparing diverse sets of data enables a thorough comprehension of this phenomenon, offering insights into visitor profiles, strengths, and weaknesses.

These data are essential for developing effective marketing activities linked to events. For instance, the Italian city of Cremona has become a year-round tourist destination thanks to its events.

Cremona analyses the dynamics of each event, the impact of concurrent events, the growth in the appeal of certain festivities, and thereby enhances its event calendar and marketing activities to promote them.

Tracking results

16. What tools can I use for assessing the results?

The principles of destination marketing aren’t vastly different from those of traditional marketing, but the factors involved are considerably more intricate and extensive.

Answering the aforementioned questions requires harnessing big data and diverse datasets, often sourced from third-party sources available both online and offline, containing nearly all the answers—or most of them. However, data are of limited utility if not tracked, consistently monitored, analysed, compared, and aligned with those from competitor countries to translate them into strategic initiatives.

There are various solutions available to accomplish this. Some destinations aggregate data from multiple providers and integrate them into customised business intelligence tools. Alternatively, they may utilise specialised solutions tailored for tourist destinations, such as our D / AI Destinations platform.

The pivotal aspect remains in measurement: comprehending the effectiveness of each marketing action on tourism requires thorough analysis to drive continuous improvement.

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