Visitor Surveys: 7 Tips to Improve Results of a Travel & Tourism Study

Visitor surveys in the travel and tourism industry are a great way to reveal the kind of people who are coming to your area.

They can showcase visitor behaviors, predict future trends, and paint a picture of the typical traveler.

This type of travel and tourism market research also goes far beyond just a single attraction.

In fact, visitor studies are often used to gather insight for a destination, town, region, and even an entire state or province. For example, this ongoing Canadian travel survey documents both US and overseas travelers.

Below we share 7 tips and best practices our market research company follows when conducting visitor surveys. 

girl visiting munich - visitor surveys by drive research

Tip 1: Brainstorm

The thought of conducting research and getting valuable insight is an intriguing one. Oftentimes, we get caught up in the excitement of it all, and we lose sight of the main objectives.

Before jumping in and writing visitor survey questions, ask yourself what you want to learn.

Are you looking to better understand who is visiting? Or maybe you would rather learn what attractions are the biggest draws.

No matter what you’re looking to get out of the research, it’s essential to have a game plan.

With a clear understanding of what it is you want to learn, you can draft a better, cleaner survey. Having a game plan also keeps you focused when it comes to analyzing the data later on.

While market research objectives vary by organization and project type, there are several common objectives that appear in most visitor surveys. For example:

  • Where do our visitors come from?
  • Where do they go upon arrival?
  • How much do they spend in the area?
  • Where do they stay?
  • What is motivating them to visit?
  • What can be done to make them visit more often?
  • What resource(s) did they use to assist with navigating their itinerary?
  • Where have they seen or heard information about us?
  • Who are our visitors: age, gender, household income, children in household, etc.?
  • How can we get a better return on our marketing efforts?

If these are some questions you and your colleagues have been asking lately, then market research just became your new best friend.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Before writing a survey, narrow down your learning objectives. Doing so will help draft better visitor survey questions that are more aligned with future goals.

Tip 2: Check Your Sample Sources

Many tourism organizations have access to visitor databases, either through opt-in email lists or other databases that collect guest information.

Therefore, it can be helpful to work with other agencies and organizations in your region to see what is available.

Data you collect in-house is free. If you have an opt-in list we suggest using this as your starting point for your survey.

Although there may be some bias in market research with the list (e.g. those who were interested enough to offer contact information), the ability to send survey invitations at no charge strongly outweighs the negatives.

If you do not have a list of visitors readily available, consider the following sample sources:

If you know a majority of your visitors come from certain states, you should focus your email or panel invitations along with any social media outreach in those same states.

Both of these options incur additional costs and fees that would not be necessary if you had an in-house database to use for invitations.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Understand who your target audience is. Travel organizations can access visitor databases and find respondents accordingly. If your company doesn’t have a visitor database ready to go, check out a market research panel or using paid social media ads.

Tip 3: Go Online, Go Mobile

Online tourism surveys are one of the best types of market research methodologies.

They’re practical from a cost perspective and they allow for high-quality data in a short timeframe. Gone are the days of reliance on phone surveys and mail surveys. This is not your father’s market research.

All age groups are at least somewhat familiar with technology and email. 

Even Baby Boomers and Traditionalists are reachable on Facebook nowadays. Online surveys open up new ways to collect data that don’t break the bank.

Something to keep in mind! More online survey responses are submitted via a mobile device than any other device (e.g. desktop or laptop). As a result, you have to design your survey as mobile-friendly first, desktop second, tablet third.

Additionally, our online survey company recommends making questions for your visitor survey short. No more than 15 questions.

A short survey length plus a brief email invitation will allow your travel and tourism team to reap the rewards of a strong response rate.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Focus on online surveys for your methodology of choice. They are cost-effective and a fast way to get traveler insights. Plus, they're relatively quick to create. 

Tip 4: Keep It Short, Engaging, and Simple

Nobody wants to take a 15 to 20-minute survey. We find the ideal travel and tourism survey to be 15 to 20 questions in length. 

The 5 minutes mark has been identified as a threshold where many respondents abandon the survey. For this reason, keep the survey short.

Make sure the respondent is engaged throughout the travel survey. Change the scales from question to question using sliders, visual images, or grids. 

No one likes a 1 to 5 scale question rating 20 different rows on a grid. Does that sound fun to you? Keep your survey engaging.

Lastly, keep it simple. No need to use big words or confusing phrases. Ensure questions are short, unbiased, and to the point.

You are looking for honest feedback, not just positive scores and ratings. The idea is to make improvements based on the data, not pat yourself on the back and make no changes. 

💡 The Key Takeaway: Narrow down your questions to stay within the 5-minute mark--audiences tend to lose interest shortly after 5 minutes. Ensure your survey is visually appealing, complete with sliders, visuals, and more. 

Recommended Reading: How to Set and Meet Respondent Expectations

Tip 5: Be Accessible

Similar to our tip concerning mobile accessibility, your survey has to be open and understandable to as many people as possible. They say no two people in the world are the same, and this applies to those visiting your region as well.

Here are a few examples of how to make the visitor survey more accessible:

  • Looking to get feedback on a new advertisement? Allow respondents to skip this question, so as not to inhibit the survey-taking experience for those who may be visually impaired.
  • Does your region receive a heavy number of visitors from areas in Latin America? Try having a Spanish version of the survey.
  • Get an influx of snowbirds every year from Quebec? Translate your questions into French.

The fact is, the world has become more connected and people from different cultures and backgrounds are visiting your area! Ensure that they can make their voices heard, too.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Ensure your tourism and travel surveys are inclusive and accessible to as many populations as possible. Depending on who has a high rate of visiting your area, consider language translation availability.

Tip 6: Focus More on Outcomes and Actions Than Data

Organizations often spend too much time reviewing the charts, graphs, and data points from online travel surveys. 

Meetings and discussions center around the findings and scores with little attention paid to recommendations, action items, or next steps.

The majority of your time should be spent determining how to take action with the data. 

Awareness of your region as a tourism destination is low? Here are 2 ways to improve it: 

  1. Offer marketing material for visitors if navigating the destination area is difficult
  2. True value is found after data analysis is conducted--the ideal time to make improvements 

💡 The Key Takeaway: The real benefit of gathered data comes after research ends. Analyze the findings to create an improved visitor experience. 

Tip 7: Consult with a Travel Market Research Company

A professional market research company that specializes in travel and tourism can be extremely helpful when conducting a visitor survey.

We may be biased, but it is true! Market research experts learn things from a variety of other industries, which help add context, best practices, and explanations to your data.

Third-party travel and tourism market research teams also see the data differently. They’re objective, and they share both the good and the bad so your organization can see where there’s a need for improvement. 

Having an objective third-party like our team at Drive Research manages the visitor survey ensures you have given the project proper attention and expertise to get it done right.

💡 The Key Takeaway: Make the most of your travel destination by contacting a seasoned tourism market research company. 

Looking for more travel and tourism market research options? Watch our video below.

Conduct a Visitor Survey with Drive Research

Drive Research is a national travel and tourism market research company in New York. We possess a wide range of experience and tools to create unique market research studies, to match the needs of your business.

Get in touch with us if you’d like to learn more about our market research services and how we can promote your tourism goals.

  1. Message us on our website
  2. Email us at [email protected]
  3. Call us at 888-725-DATA
  4. Text us at 315-303-2040


Devan Grant

Devan's love for learning serves him well as a market research professional. With two years of both quantitative and qualitative research in the healthcare space under his belt, he knows what it takes to answer some of the toughest market research questions.

Learn more about Devan, here.

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