Data Analytics Have Become Vital for State Tourism

Countries and states have embraced data analytics for their tourism industries because the industry is so vital to economic development. While “big data” is a hot topic for tourism and hospitality across the United States, it’s important that state travel agencies keep sight of an important source of data they already have: their web and digital analytics.

COVID-19’s Impact on State Tourism Is Unclear in 2021

Last year, the COVID-19 pandemic had an enormous impact on tourism in the U.S. with a total drop in travel spending of at least $355 Billion, per data collected by Statista. This decline represents about a third of the $1.1 Trillion spent in an average year.

Here in Wisconsin, where I live, the effect was to increase activity and spending on outdoors activity over the summer.

Potential levels of state tourism spending are unclear in 2021. The advent of several vaccines, possibility for increased stimulus spending at the federal level, “quarantine fatigue,” and other factors make the forecast murky.

Regardless of what happens, state tourism agencies will need to make the most of their promotional dollars this year to boost states’ economies.

Web & Digital Media Tourism Spend Can Be Done Very Efficiently

When it comes to spending state tourism dollars wisely, digital media is a top option due to cost-effectiveness, ease of deployment, and ease of measurement. Even state tourism agencies that spend large sums annually on traditional media are also investing heavily in digital.

For example, Visit California, the nonprofit organization driving that state’s tourism awareness campaigns, spent $10.1 million on television ads in 2019. However, that amount was less than 8 percent of their $131 million total investment. Their other spend included heavy reliance on social media and article-based online content such as blogs.

Giving, And Getting, The Most Value Out of Every Website Visit

For your digital spend to be the most effective, you need to provide the most value to your website users as they come in. By doing that, you will also get the most significant value in return from your users’ visits and, therefore, your marketing investment. To maximize benefit to users, your digital customer experience needs to become, and stay, top-notch. So, how do you get there?

Turn Website Visitor Outcomes Into Metrics and Key Performance Indicators

A solid approach is to think about the possible outcomes from visits to your website, positive or negative, and then build those into metrics and goals that are meaningful for your agency or promotion.

Consider potential outcomes not as individual conversions, but of sets of actions that, together, paint a picture of a more engaged or less engaged website visitor. The visit source would be the first step in your outcome set, tied to the page the visitor landed on from that source.

Interactions on the landing page, time spent or amount of the page seen, and clicks to additional internal content are intermediate steps in the user journey included in a website visit outcome set.

Finally, consider the end-point conversions within outcomes, keeping in mind that a larger percentage of your visitors will likely never get to them.

By looking at the website visit as a series of steps from a visit source, and including all the page actions and content views together as a cohesive whole allows for more effective mapping of the website customer experience. It also helps with building out sets of audiences for retargeting or remarketing advertising campaigns.

Don’t Forget Tourism Partner Marketing in Outcomes

Reporting the effectiveness of partner promotions and co-marketing efforts is important for internal use and for keeping those partners invested in working with your state tourism agency. Outcomes that end in or include a partner are critical to include in your visitor outcomes.

Go Beyond Standard Website Tracking And Analytics

Next, create website tracking and conversions that match up with the outcomes you mapped. Just as with government website tracking, settling for the standard metrics provided by your website tracking isn’t going to give you everything you need for web analytics to optimize against these outcomes.

Without enhanced website metrics that go above and beyond standard analytics deployments, you’ll miss out on many of the data points that help reveal exactly how users are behaving on your website.

Effective website reporting on a state tourism agency’s home page can identify which pieces of content are creating the most user engagement.

One example: Because many website visits from paid and non-paid social media advertising are single page visits from smartphones or tablets, it is often difficult to determine if your landing page content is effective or not.

Additional state tourism website tracking data points that can help include:

  • Measuring how long visitors who only viewed one page actually stayed on that page
  • Learning how far down a page the visitor scrolled, and what content they viewed
  • Interactions with anything on the page, such as watching a video (and how long), opening an accordion to reveal additional content, using an on-page event search or trip calculator
  • If the visitor left the website, did they merely close their web browser or did they do something more desirable, like clicking a link to visit one of your partners?
  • If the visitor clicked an icon or link to visit one of your social media properties, and if it was the same one they entered the website from

Aim for the Cleanest Analytics Reporting Possible

Reporting dashboard with an overview of recent website performance for the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

Categories of tracking events should be clear, and the reporting within them should be human-readable.

Interactive dashboards that roll up related metrics, and data visualizations such as charts and graphs can help in communicating performance metrics back to the team and executive level.

Develop Processes for Continuous Optimization

Funnel visualization on a reporting dashboard for the Virginia Tourism Corporation.

The exact timing of that cycle depends on the level of website and digital marketing activity, but a good rule of thumb is to circle back on reporting at least every quarter. The reporting discussion requires the entire team and will be consultative in nature, with input from all stakeholders.

Does Your State Tourism Agency Need Help With Website Analytics And Tracking?

I’m always glad to consult local, state, and federal tourism agencies and organizations on their website tracking. Contact me to set up a discussion or ask a question.

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