I often review data and gather insights to inform our marketing campaigns at Visit Flanders. This can be a particularly challenging undertaking because it isn’t always easy to find the right data. Unlike many other businesses, destination marketing organisations (DMOs) don’t have a direct link to our customers – tourists – so it’s more of a challenge. Instead, we often need to take data from different sources and make them fit together, a bit like a puzzle.
At Visit Flanders, our mission is to increase the economic return, employment, and welfare from tourism for the population of Flanders. One of our main objectives is helping to spread out tourism so it doesn’t exceed comfortable capacity in any one city – as in the case of Bruges, a popular city for tourists. For the past few years, we’ve used our marketing campaigns to promote Bruges as a winter destination, when there are fewer visitors, and highlight other places in Flanders to visit over the summer at the height of tourism.
We quickly realised we needed to take a new approach with our marketing, to be more flexible and capitalise on opportunities. By using Amadeus Destination Insight, we have already achieved timely, relevant, and accurate insights from data. Its analysis of billions of up-to-date global air transactions highlights hidden opportunities for us to increase tourism in Flanders.
The importance of external factors
There are many external factors that can impact traveller demand, and it’s no longer enough to rely on past information to determine future traveller behaviour. Environmental issues, currency changes, even terrorism can impact demand, and DMOs need to be able to adjust quickly to these developments.
For example, following the March 2016 terrorist attacks in Brussels we worked with Amadeus to monitor on a weekly basis the impact of the attacks on our target source markets, adjusting or postponing marketing campaigns in response.
As a DMO, understanding who your competitors are ensures being able to compete effectively for traveller attention in the right place at the right time. Destination Insight showed us we weren’t doing this in an optimal way: it wasn’t enough to rely on our own instincts, as the data revealed something else entirely.
In the past we would have named Copenhagen and Vienna as our primary competitors, but the data from Amadeus showed people actually visit these cities at a completely different time of year. Surprisingly for us, our main competitors were Paris and Amsterdam. We were able to use this information to better target our campaigns.
We also found that we weren’t necessarily reaching potential travellers at the right time. We assumed visitors started to search and book trips to Flanders in the spring, but analysis showed travellers were more likely to start planning in January. Thanks to this insight, we shifted our marketing activity towards the start of the year – not only getting ahead of our competitors, but also meeting traveller interest during a previously unrecognised high booking season.
These are just some of the ways data can help a DMO reach potential visitors. The travel landscape is changing rapidly, and travellers have more choice of where to travel than ever before. Successful DMOs will be those who can use data to become proactive, adapting their strategies with flexible, data-led decision-making. Right now, we’re focused on using data to improve our marketing campaigns and strategies, but there are many ways data will help DMOs in the future. This is only the beginning.