Metrics or Memories?

Are destinations measuring the wrong things for the wrong reasons? A packed debate I attended at WTM this month chaired by the Digital Tourism Think Tank certainly provoked some interesting questions for Bournemouth and other coastal destinations.

Too often it seems, a destination’s focus is optimising its Key Performance Indicators rather than building meaningful emotional engagement with its visitors. Naturally, a destination must satisfy its municipal obligations in setting and exceeding target visitor numbers, and helping every service provider within its boundaries to do the same. But when it comes to meaningful interaction with visitors, the kind of engagement that creates advocacy, there’s some considerable way to go before destinations catch up with tech-savvy OTAs (online travel agencies like or Expedia).

Is it because, for the most part, a destination only interacts with its visitors at investigation stage - once you’ve booked you’re overlooked? Contrast this with the sophisticated customer journey management of an OTA. As some industry practitioners point out, the OTAs are streets ahead on metrics anyway, so how could a destination hope to compete in understanding the preferences and decision drivers of its visitors?

Perhaps it’s time to pioneer a different approach at destination level. Should destinations be putting their resources into measuring memories, as well as volume and value? More difficult to measure, but many would argue a more valuable metric. And the potential of mobile in engaging with visitors during, and after, their stay, is largely untapped. Could destinations use mobile not only in collecting memories and experiences to help convey a user-generated sense of place to its audiences, but also to influence the experience during the trip by, say, texting alerts or suggestions to visitors in the destination?

It all points to the need for a better understanding of the social media-fuelled customer journey of today’s travellers. And the recognition that, while robust metrics will always be important in measuring growth, an enhanced understanding of the touch points that could influence that growth is arguably more so.

By Alex Moss