Measuring tourism you can manage!

There’s an old adage that goes: You can’t manage what you can’t measure.

Every destination around the world measures its tourism performance on the number of arrivals and how much these visitors spend. However, as we have seen over the last 30 years, tourism is affected my many external factors ranging from wars, terrorism, and disease, through to the global economy. You can run the perfect marketing campaign but still see numbers go down! So by measuring tourist arrivals it can be argued that destinations are measuring what they can’t (at least completely) manage.

This has led several destinations to start looking at what they can manage, and measuring their progress and success on that. One such measure is TripAdvisor ratings. The rationale is that destinations can have a direct influence on how visitors feel about accommodation, attractions and tours.

We have been working with the Falkland Islands Tourism Board for nearly 10 years tracking their tourism performance. The Falkland Islands has 10 accommodation establishments, 21 attractions, 4 tours operators, and 10 restaurants and bars rated on TripAdvisor. By taking the scores of each one and creating an overall out-of-10 score for these different groups we are able to see how visitors rate the Falkland Islands’ tourism sector. The results are shown below.

Not only does this allow the Falklands to see where they need to improve, but by tracking these ratings it is possible to monitor changes over time.   This is something the Falklands can manage and measure!

measurements you can manage



The Secret to Successful Data Collection…in Denmark


I’m in Denmark for the week, introducing a number of coastal towns to T-Stats.  It’s all part of a project to develop seaside towns in the country, and my remit is to provide a solution that will allow each town to measure and track tourism at the local level.

The situation here is very similar to that in England, VisitDenmark (like VisitEngland) commissions a nationwide accommodation occupancy survey, and there is also an annual attractions survey.  However, whilst these are useful for generating a picture of tourism at the national, and even regional level, they are of little use at the local level.

One issue is that the number of hotels, bed and breakfasts, and other types of accommodation that report their statistics is too small in these surveys to provide meaningful information at the local level.  Another issue, possibly more pertinent, is the lack of immediacy in the national survey data.  It takes too long for the data to be released, and so by the time it is, the moment has passed.  It no longer has the significance or usefulness that it would have had if it had been published a month after it was collected.

What we are doing in Denmark is holding meetings at each town that is part of the coastal tourism project.  Owners or managers of accommodation establishments and attractions are invited to attend, and the online database system is explained to them: how they enter data, how they can track their own performance on it, and how they can compare themselves with their peers.

The overall success of this is, of course, dependant on their buy-in to the system, as without their data the database is merely an empty structure.

So, do they buy-in?

Well, most of the time, yes, they do.  And the reason for this is what makes local-level data collection so much more appealing than that at the national level.  The local tourism administration usually has close ties with the hotels, bed and breakfasts, attractions, and so on.  Consequently they are best placed to persuade them to divulge their data.  In turn, the owners and managers are more likely to trust the organisation collecting the data, and therefore more readily provide it. 

And above all, the accommodation establishments and attractions are most likely to appreciate the benefits that this local level information could have on their businesses, as it provides vital information for planning, marketing and promoting the sector. 

And that’s why collecting data at the local level is king!