Tourism Marketing: Getting Started with Data

Kayakers on an alpine lake surrounded by rocky mountains.

When vetting a new digital marketing scope, it’s common practice for us to always start by conducting research. It’s one thing to sit down and identify what the goals and objectives are of a campaign. It’s another to identify and develop personas of existing consumers in order to target a likely-to-convert audience. When faced with a scope specific to the tourism industry, we want to focus on understanding those who are currently paying to travel and visit specific destinations. This understanding of existing consumers can help expand into uncovering new markets of opportunity based on similar behavior and demographics.


So how can one uncover and support these markets with data? You analyze data sources you have access to, draw insights from existing audiences and develop strategies geared towards reaching these personas. 


Don’t Sleep on Descriptive Statistics


First things first – let’s look at the basics of data analysis. If you’ve ever taken a statistics course, there’s a good chance that you are familiar with what descriptive statistics are. If it’s been a hot minute, then here’s a quick rundown on what exactly descriptive statistics are.


As the name implies, a descriptive statistic is a single term that quantitatively describes, or summarizes, a piece of data. The plural form of descriptive statistics refers to the process of analyzing those statistics to learn about a  sample of data. The most common descriptive statistics derived from raw data include: mean, median, mode, count and standard deviation. 


When it comes to analyzing data, using descriptive statistics can really help paint a quick picture of the sample data. For example, say we have a data set on the demographics of those who have worked with a US tourism agency in the past five years. By getting descriptive statistics of certain fields, such as age or gender, we can see quickly what characteristics stand out and whether they appear to be a population more susceptible to using tourism agency services.


Where to Find Data Sources

Next, how do we find the right data sources? If you have access to your agency’s database, then great! You’re ready to dive into the data through a program of your choice.


If you don’t have access to internal data, then this next step may be a bit of a challenge. Depending on the industry, this can be either a very easy or a very difficult thing to accomplish. Data privacy is a concern that everyone is invested in and isn’t always available to the public, which can make it hard to find raw information on the industry. 


Thankfully, a lot of industries already do the work for you and often release reports that are available for the public to peruse. Statista is a great source for data across a number of industries, including tourism in the United States. These reports can get you started on the right path of identifying audiences in the industry.


Other sources for public data sets include: 

  • Census data. This can be a great place to start if you’re researching opportunities within the United States population.
  • US Government data. Covering a wide range of industries, this website contains a ton of data to analyze.



Use Your Digital Sources: Paid Search + Social Media

If you are using Google Analytics on your website, then you already have access to a valuable pool of data. Ranging from information on the audience of web visitors to specific actions taken on web pages, the amount of insights you can draw from this data source is incredible. If linked correctly, Analytics can help you dive further into your Google Ads campaign data. This allows you to understand where and how web visitors are being driven to your website.


The amount of data available in Analytics can quickly have you lose track of time going through each tab on the sidebar. To avoid getting overwhelmed, we prefer to connect this source with a data visualization tool, such as Google Data Studio or Tableau. These types of tools provide a better overview and allow for quick analysis.


Another valuable source of data falls under the realm of social media. If you have a Facebook or Instagram business account for your organization, then you have access to Insights. In the platform itself, you have the ability to browse data about your followers. From this source, you can see how your followers engage with your page, followers’ reactions to posts, where they are from, and more. As with Analytics data, you can take this data one step further and connect it with a data visualization tool. 



Data Visualization

Considering that our agency uses Google Suite programs, it’s no surprise that Google Data Studio is our data viz tool of choice. What’s great about Data Studio is its ability to seamlessly connect with a number of internal and external sources of data and blend sources painlessly. 



With this tool, you can build visually appealing and insightful reports that can answer questions about your existing audience quickly. Consider the following image. We can quickly see a snapshot of where our followers are, thus prompting us to consider expanding our efforts to these markets.  



Still not convinced? Try for yourself using one of our simple web traffic report templates.

Step 1. Go to this template report .

Step 2. Click on the Duplicate icon on the top right and on the pop up, select Copy Report.

Step 3. Select any graph and under the Data tab on the right side panel, click on the [Sample] Google Analytics data source, and click on the Create New Data Source at the bottom to connect to your Analytics data. 


What Is Your Data Telling You?

Screenshot of Google Analytics.

Ring, ring, ring ………. 

Believe it or not, that’s your Data calling. In all likelihood, the conversation is going to go one of three ways:

You hear who it is and immediately reply I’m not interested, take me off your list.

You see that it’s your Data calling and you’re excited to talk, but all you can hear are the teacher’s voices from Charlie Brown.

You have a nice long chat and receive a lot of valuable insights, but it’s just too much all at once so you’re not sure what your next steps should be.

There’s nothing wrong with any of those responses, which is why they’re so common. The alternative is that you’re actively using your Data every step of the way to measure success and influence planning. But if that’s the case, Data wouldn’t be calling in the first place.

In 2013, Hubspot social media scientist Dan Zarrella told Forbes “marketing without Data is like driving with your eyes closed.” Five years later his statement carries even more weight as the marketing canvas on which we paint has exponentially grown and matured. Luckily, marketing analytics come in all shapes and sizes with varying degrees of complexity and usefulness. And there isn’t a right or wrong way to use the Data. The only rule is that you use it.

Data Driven Marketing

Studying Data and analytics can seem overwhelming and daunting. Sometimes it can feel like a never-ending process. But I often equate it to launching and maintaining social media platforms. Yes, having as broad a presence is ideal, but not every network is going to be appropriate, nor will your comfort level be consistently high across the board. So, you pick what fits your brand’s identity (using Data to inform this also helps!) and what won’t become a pain point and burdensome task for you. Falling into either of those two scenarios reverses the exercise’s effectiveness. And that’s the beauty of Data-driven marketing. You can make it work for you and your business.

Regardless of your background or level of experience with Data analysis, the foundation of every campaign should be molded using the answers to these three questions:

Who is the audience I’m trying to reach?

What are my most important marketing channels?

What are my objectives?

Taking it from the top, let’s use the example of a small advertising campaign. You’re given a product to market and a budget, but nothing else. Now start answering the questions.


It would be easy to run a Facebook advertising campaign where the target audience was everyone. But you could also just toss your money in the river. Instead, take some time and compile three identifying characteristics of you target individual. They can be demographic, geographic, or interest based. Now confirm those assumptions using the insights you have on hand, something like Google or Facebook analytics. (As an aside, Data doesn’t always have to be something generated from a machine and printed on a piece of paper. Anecdotal information, when gathered in enough volume, can be as effective a Data source as an algorithm).

Data Driven Marketing

Marketing Platforms

Now that you have identified the type of person you are looking to reach the next step is to figure out where. The term “marketing platforms” can mean a lot of different things based on your campaign directive. In this case it’s answering the question of where does the consumer that fits the above criteria spend most of their time. If it’s social media is it Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest? If it’s email based what sorts of newsletters would they subscribe to, so you can buy into ad networks. Or are they strictly web browsing users? There are a host of resources to confirm your assumptions. For example, take a deep dive into your website’s inbound analytics. If a large percentage of users are finding you through Facebook (paid or organic), it’s probably a good idea to take your resources there. But if Google seems to be a popular starting spot, a targeted AdWords campaign might be the most effective. Regardless, you’re using the past to predict the future, so you can act in the present.


We know the type of person we’re trying to reach and the platform we’d like to execute on, but how are we going to know if we were successful? It’s vital to be as specific as possible without limiting yourself so much that the findings from the analysis aren’t going to be useful down the road. The importance of this step goes well beyond the campaign at hand because it’s giving you Data to inform your next campaign. Each time you execute on something you’re compiling more and more Data, which just makes this entire process easier. You’re not saying the objective is to have a click to the website and then move on, but it’s also not that you want someone to purchase a product at high noon with a Visa Debit card. If your objective is to grow your newsletter list via advertising, set a percentage increase goal. Or if it’s sales, highlight a revenue number to meet.

Planning is done! Now go execute, study the Data after the fact, and repeat, at which point you will have officially closed the loop on a Data-driven marketing campaign. It’s not always perfect because not all Data is perfect, and sometimes doesn’t exist at all. The results might not be perfect (or even pretty) and that’s ok as well. It’s a process and it takes practice, time, and patience to improve and realize your goals.

As long as you’re not driving with your eyes closed you’ll reach your destination.