How to Find New Loyalists in Tourism Recovery

By Melania Geltz, Account Supervisor

There’s a reason some tropes become, well, tropes. In the tourism marketing business, “birds of a feather flock together” is the base rationale for customer segmentation as a primary recovery strategy for destinations and attractions. And it all starts with loyalists, a.k.a. those people who visit routinely and spend the most. But what happens in a year when even your loyalists aren’t traveling? You go out looking for new ones. But wait, that sounds expensive … 

 

It’s not. What’s really amazing about this way of looking to your known loyalists for behavioral insight and targeting clarification to capture future opportunity is that you don’t need expensive or highly sophisticated software tools. You can use tools to which we all have access for generating foundational, directional, actionable insights to kick-start your destination recovery strategy. 

 

So let’s get right to it. 

 

1. Understand Your “In” Crowd

As you think about finding new loyalists, it’s important to first understand the common behaviors and attributes that defined the prior set. Here’s how. Stratify your first-party data by those who are (or have been) the most loyal. You may rank these types of people by the times they visited, how long they stayed, or how much they spent while there. Most likely, they’re clustered to a few origins. These people (and these markets) are your true loyalists, and they are the most likely to visit even when things are weird. But then 2020 changed “things” and “weird” in a big way. 

 

2. Know Where People Are Coming From

We did a very simple thing in 2020. We took airports and airplanes out of the picture. We created a 12-hour driving radius around a destination, and we named the markets within it as our opportunity sources for new loyalists. Then, we considered how that trip would feel and if they would actually come. How long (for real, stops included) would the drive take? Would we make that trip ourselves? If we made the trip, would we have to quarantine when we returned home? These questions created a bit of a gauntlet, but it really helped us narrow our focus.

 

3. Consider the Season

Once we had our radius defined, we carefully considered the actual trip with the season in mind. For example, we anticipated that some people would see a road trip as a fun bonus during the summer, but in the winter, the prospect of driving in snow would keep some home. Another new element this year was school, and evaluating the likelihood of in-person, hybrid and virtual learning models in origin markets for loyalists. We carefully reviewed the plans for opening in each opportunity market to assess whether families with children would travel (assuming all remote) or not (maintaining consistency for in-person learning). And yet another wrinkle in 2020 was large, highway-jumping forest fires in the West. Discussing these issues helped us winnow our markets further and allocate budget accordingly.

 

4. Reevaluate and Shift

We knew it before, but this year it became crystal clear. An excellent strategy in tourism marketing is not enough, especially when recovery is the name of the game. You have to be ready to shift. In 2020, the impetus for shift was the constant swirl of shutdown, reopening, restrictions … on repeat. And next year may bring variations on the theme. In 2020, we practiced pausing, phasing, channel reallocation, and much more, as we kept our tourism brands relevant and present. Agile audience segmentation informed and powered every move. 

 

Is there more to this story? Yes. Check out our first post on boosting momentum toward 2021, in which we laid out the rationale for focusing on locals first

 


Now in our 50th year of business, Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.

Vladimir Jones is Colorado’s original independent, integrated advertising agency, with offices in Denver and Colorado Springs. We believe in brilliant brands and love making the world love them as much as we do.