Just what is Tourism Intelligence?

 

by Kevin Millington, Acorn T-Stats director

 

So you want to market your destination more effectively. But how do you generate some really useful intelligence from a load of data that you’ve collected from existing or potential visitors?

 

This is the conundrum that faces most destinations. If information is data with a story attached, intelligence is information with a strategy attached – or at least some strategic pointers. Intelligence should clearly assist the user to make some decisions – it gives direction.

 

If you Google search Tourism Marketing Intelligence System you are unlikely to find anything significant. Put simply, the concept doesn’t really exist in any meaningful form. Some destinations have developed computer-based programmes that help interpret data, most typically relating to visitor arrivals, but these tend to be few and far between. The tourism sector, it seems, is remarkably uninventive when it comes to developing systems that help interpret data and give users some clues with regards to what they should do next.

 

I have just arrived in St. Lucia in the Caribbean, and this week we are gathering together representatives from all nine Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) countries to thrash out what will become the bones of a Tourism Marketing Intelligence System for the region.

 

The options up for discussion vary widely from a system that will provide intelligence on air and cruise visitors, through to the monitoring and analysis of social media campaigns to provide intelligence on their effectiveness.

 

Whatever is agreed upon when all the talking is over, one thing is for sure, the system will interpret the data and turn information into intelligence that will give all nine countries some clear direction on what they need to do to be more competitive in the region. Hopefully it will also inspire other destinations to think more about being creative with their data, and start making it work for them.

km blog 090317

http://www.t-stats.co.uk

http://www.acorntourism.co.uk

TOURISM FACT EXTRACTS

February 2017

Acorn director Kevin Millington files a regular column for the online newsletter, Tourism Consultants Network News. Here are some of his latest findings:

TRAVEL PLANNING AND BOOKING IN A MULTI-DEVICE WORLD

A new survey by Signal, a global leader in real-time, cross-channel marketing, has revealed that a majority of consumers (51%) regularly uses two or more devices for planning and booking trips. UK travellers are using digital devices more than ever before, with smartphones, desktops, laptops and tablets being used for researching travel and booking holidays. The survey of 2,000 UK consumers shows that 83% of consumers used a computer, tablet or smartphone to plan their trip in the last year, a 36% increase on the previous year. For more information, click here.

MAKE YOUR OWN HOTEL

Customisation has reached new heights. Travel company Black Tomato has launched Blink, a new service which allows people to ‘design their own luxury temporary accommodation in locations that are so private, pristine and untouched that no one else will have stayed there before (or again) in the same way.’ The company’s experts will hand pick unlikely locations, from the Bolivian salt flats to an Icelandic fjord, where camps can be set up for clients. Afterwards, there will be no trace it was ever there. Prices range from £8,800 to £23,000 (both based on six people), depending on destination. Check out 11 Hotel Trends for 2017.

INCREASE IN ENGLAND ROOM OCCUPANCY RATES

VisitEngland has recently updated its audit of accommodation. The census includes over 33,000 serviced and 31,000 non-serviced establishments categorised by area and accommodation type. The latest England Occupancy Survey shows the average room occupancy rate up to November 2016 at 71%, up 1% on 2015. Regionally, Yorkshire and the North East have experienced the greatest occupancy growth.

ASIA PACIFIC AND THE AMERICAS LEAD GROWTH IN 2016

According to the UNWTO World Tourism Barometer, tourist arrivals growth was 3.7% to September 2016, weaker than the 4.6% recorded over the same period in 2015. Asia Pacific is expected to have been the fastest growing world region in terms of tourist arrivals, up by 9.3%. South Korea, Vietnam and Japan all recorded growth rates of over 20%. The Americas grew by 4.4% with Chile up 29%, Cuba 12% and Canada 11%. For more information, go to the WTTC November 2016 Full Report.

50 year UK Stats Snapshot
Sunday Times 50 years of business from National Statistics
  1964 2014
Train journeys 928m 1.6bn
London tube journeys 674m 1.3bn
Aircraft landings/take-offs 480k 2m
Airport terminal passengers 17.6m 228.4m
Strike days lost 227bn 443k

LATEST INBOUND UK DATA SHOWS A DECLINE IN LEISURE ARRIVALS

The latest arrivals data from the International Passenger Survey for January-November 2016 shows that total visitors are up 3% and spend 1%. However, digging a bit deeper reveals that any positive exchange rate fluctuations for overseas visitors to the UK do not appear to have had an effect to date. Holiday visitors are down 1% in 2016 compared to 2015. It is VFR arrivals that is most strongly supporting arrivals growth, increasing by 9%. Find out more here.

EUROPEAN TRAVELLERS OPT FOR CITY BREAKS AND VFR IN 2016

There was a change in the travelling habits of Europeans in 2016 as they opted for safe destinations, including a stagnation in sea and beach holidays, whilst taking more city trips. Outbound trips by Europeans grew by 2.5% in the first 8 months of 2016, according to World Travel Monitor figures. Outbound trips to destinations within Europe increased by 3% as travellers stayed closer to home, while trips to Asia grew by only 2%, and there was a 1% drop in trips to the Americas.

Top performers in terms of outbound growth were Poland and Ireland (both +7%), UK, The Netherlands, Spain and Denmark (all +6%), whilst the German market grew by 4%.

Interestingly, trips by Europeans for holidays increased by only 2%, while visits to friends and relatives grew by 10%. The destinations experiencing most growth included Spain and Portugal in the Mediterranean, and Norway and Iceland in northern Europe. For more details, read on here.

 

http://www.acorntourism.co.uk

http://www.t-stats.co.uk

 

 

Tracking tourism in Oman

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This week I’m back in Oman at the Ministry of Tourism in Muscat.

We’re doing lots of exciting stuff, including the development of a quarterly statistics monitor to provide some indicators about how tourism is performing in Oman.  It needs to be up-to-date and current, showing changes compared to the same period the previous year.

When you search about, there is a surprising range of useful indicators that can paint a picture of tourism in a destination.

Firstly, there are the obvious ones that most destinations focus on: tourist arrivals by purpose of visit for (at least) the top five source markets. Better still, it’s good to concentrate on leisure tourist arrivals, as these are the ones a national tourism administration will primarily be responsible for attracting. Timeliness of this data can sometimes be a challenge, but working closely with immigration departments can help.

Then there are accommodation data, ideally room occupancy and average room rates. These are usually available from monthly accommodation surveys. Not all hotels and guesthouses need to respond to these – a sample is enough.

Visits to attractions can usually be collected fairly quickly and without too much difficulty. Again, not all attractions need to provide data, as long as those that do are broadly representative of all attractions in the destination, and therefore can give an indication of change in tourist demand.

Possibly the easiest indicators to collect, and at no cost, are digital media statistics. Some of the most useful include unique visitors to the destination website and followers on Facebook and Twitter. All of these provide an indication of interest in the destination, and can be a useful measure of marketing activity.

Throwing in some national or international economic indicators is always worthwhile, to create a broader picture. These might include exchange rates with those currencies most used by inbound tourists, the domestic interest rate, rate of inflation, and fuel prices. All of these have an impact on either inbound and/or domestic tourism demand. They may not change vastly from one month to the next, but when doing annual comparisons they can provide some interesting insight.

Finally, for good measure, it’s not a bad idea to engage with the tourism sector through a business barometer survey, emailing accommodation establishments, tour operators, attractions, and other businesses that interact with tourists with a short online survey. Asking questions such as: what are your prospects for visits or forward bookings over the next three months? provide a good indication of business sentiment and confidence in the sector.

Sometimes it’s surprising how much intelligence you can pull together to track tourism in a destination; as was the case here in Oman.

http://www.acorntourism.co.uk

http://www.t-stats.co.uk

 

 

 

Natural Capital Accounting for Tourism in Botswana

I’ve just arrived in Botswana, and whilst I’ve been working on and off here since 1999 it’s good to see Gaborone again. In many respects, Botswana is the birthplace of the tourism statistics database (T-Stats) that we’ve created and is in use around the world. Whilst I’m here to update their system and convert it into a cloud-based online system, there’s something more ground breaking to do that will utilise the information in the database.

We are working on a WAVES (Wealth Accounting and Valuation of Ecosystem Services) project. This is a global partnership bringing together a broad coalition of governments, UN agencies and nongovernmental organisations aimed at establishing Natural Capital Accounts.

Sounds complicated? Well, not really, and in fact quite logical. Let me explain. When a company measures its annual performance it compiles a profit and loss account to find out how much it has made, and a balance sheet to identify its assets.

Traditional national accounts tend to serve the profit and loss side of things when measuring the economic performance of a country. For example the national accounts for agriculture show the output from farming, national accounts for minerals show the output from mining, etc. For tourism we develop a Tourism Satellite Account (TSA), which shows the output from tourism activities.

What these national accounts don’t show are the balance sheets. For example, when mining takes place in a country, the resource (diamonds, gold, coal, etc) is diminished. It is taken away, and the country has less of it. This is the basis behind natural capital accounting.

In Botswana a natural capital account for water has already been produced. Now it is the turn for tourism. Measuring tourism is not a straightforward process at the best of times (compared to measuring other sectors such as mining, agriculture and manufacturing). However, World Tourism Organization guidelines developed over the last 20 years have made it a well-documented process.

Developing a Natural Capital Account for tourism is less well documented, and in fact hasn’t been done anywhere else in the world yet. One of the first tasks is to determine how to measure the tourism resource. In Botswana this is mainly the national parks and game reserves that the tourists pay to visit. The quality of these parks largely determines the price tourists will pay to visit Botswana. If they become overcrowded with tourists, environmentally damaged, or suffer a reduction in wildlife stock they will become less valuable, no different from a diamond mine with fewer diamonds left in it to extract.

So that’s our task…to work out how the account will be compiled, and put together a work plan that will set out the process for collecting all the data required. It should be a busy and exciting few months.

BOTSWANA (Okavanga Delta) shutterstock_162514037

Tuvalu – The Least Visited Paradise!

It is human nature when looking at ranked lists (no matter what they may be of) to see who is at the top and who is at the bottom! In the United Nations World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) table of tourism destinations, France stands proudly at the top with almost 84 million arrivals in 2014. At the bottom lies Tuvalu, a tiny country made up of 9 coral atolls in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean.

In 2014, just 1,416 tourists visited Tuvalu, of which only 424 were travelling on holiday. It is hard to comprehend why so few people visit somewhere that, to most Europeans and North Americans, looks pretty close to their vision of an island paradise. Azure blue lagoons with low lying white sandy beaches and palm trees is a pretty accurate description of Tuvalu.

However, they are not easy to reach. The only air link is by Fiji Airways, which flies twice a week using a 66 seat aircraft, or the less frequent three-day trip on a small ship, also from Fiji.

When you get there, accommodation is limited and of not a particularly high quality, the variety of food is also limited, and there isn’t much to do. Diving would be world class, but there are no certified dive operators. Yachting and fishing would also be appealing to many tourists, but facilities are currently lacking.

Despite the lack of visitors, the reason I’m currently here in Tuvalu is to conduct a tourist survey. The country urgently needs good solid data upon which to base the recommendations of their recently completed National Tourism Development Strategy, which was undertaken by the South Pacific Tourism Organisation.

This survey is clear evidence that no matter how small your tourism sector is, good data is essential to ensure future decisions are based on solid evidence rather than hearsay. Tuvalu deserves it!

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St Helena: New airport, new challenges

Runway - Almost complete

These days it is unusual to start a journey and not know the time, or even day, you will arrive at your destination. In fact there are very few trips you can take where that might happen. Soon there will be one less.

The journey on the RMS St. Helena from Cape Town to the British overseas territory of St. Helena starts that way. On leaving port we are informed that the journey will take six days, and as time progresses the date and time of arrival becomes more precise, depending on the wind and waves. Until the first airport on the island opens next year, the ship is the only link to the island.

One of the enduring appeals of the RMS St Helena is that it is the last working Royal Mail Ship in operation. All 110 passengers on board are travelling home, to work, or to visit the island. This isn’t a ship designed, built and sailing for the pure pleasure of cruising itself. This ship has a job to do.

However, it’s about to lose its job. The long awaited airport on St. Helena is expected to open in February 2016 – in less than 12 months time. The RMS St. Helena, which has been the lifeline for the island for so long, will then be decommissioned.

Until now, when travel writers and journalists write about the island of St. Helena, much is made of the long journey on board the RMS, as the ship is affectionately known. The island, as such, has effectively become a fly-cruise (or just cruise for the South African market) destination. For most visitors, more time is spent on board the RMS than on the island itself. As a tourist, by the time you first set sights on the Island in the 6th day, looming staggering large on the horizon, it has achieved almost mythical status. Passengers have spent days reading about it, watching videos, and hearing stories told by the Saints travelling back home. Disembarking the RMS onto dry land gives the tourist a feeling of arrival at somewhere very special, and there is also a strong sense of discovery.

This counts for a lot in today’s marketplace where destinations fight for the attention of potential tourists, all trying to distinguish themselves from other destinations, and offer something different, new or exciting. And this is why I’m here – to help St. Helena Tourism with their branding of the island.

Research that we undertook earlier this year showed that long haul travellers demonstrated a high level of recognition of St. Helena as a destination, however there was considerable uncertainty regarding where it lay. 15% thought it was in the English Channel and 20% in the Mediterranean. Only around one-third could place it in the South Atlantic. There was also uncertainty over what it offered as a destination, with one-half choosing beaches as its prime attraction. There are no beaches of note on the Island.

The airport runway is almost complete – just another 400 meters of concrete to pour, and work is pressing ahead to complete the terminal building and control tower. In July a test flight will arrive on the island to ensure that the landing systems are calibrated properly. Comair, the British Airways subsidiary, has been selected as the airline that will initially connect the island to the rest of the world, flying weekly between Johannesburg and St. Helena in just over four hours.

No longer will it be primarily a destination for retired people, with the combined time of the journey on the RMS and a week on the island necessitating a holiday of at least three weeks. It will become more accessible to everyone.

Consequently, there is much to be done to prepare for a more regular influx of tourists (at present the RMS visits the Island approximately every 3-4 weeks with around 120 passengers on board). Accommodation, restaurants, cafes, and transport are just some of the services that tourists will require in greater quantities then ever before.

However, and possibly most significantly, there will be new expectations of St. Helena as a destination. In just over 4 hours the tourist will have flown from South Africa to the Island. No time to adjust, reflect, read, and prepare for arrival as they do at the moment. This is likely to make visitors more demanding and less forgiving. They will start to lose sight of the remoteness and challenges an island 1,200 miles off the coast of Africa and 1,800 miles from Brazil faces.

Today, very few tourists leave St. Helena disappointed, but this may change once tourists start arriving by air. St. Helena then runs the risk of over-promising and under-delivering, and this will lead to some tourists returning home and not passing on in a positive way that most effective form of marketing – word of mouth.