Visitor Surveys for Tourism | 5 Tips to Run Successful Market Research

Visitor surveys in the tourism industry are an excellent way to shed light on demographics, behaviors, and trends among populations coming to your region. Visitor surveys extend far beyond a single attraction. Visitors surveys are easy to implement for a destination, town, region, and even state.

No matter what your scope, a visitor survey can tackle your objectives. The scope of a visitor survey in tourism can range from organization to organization.

Some of the common objectives of a visitor survey are aimed to obtain answers for the following:

  1. Where do our visitors come from?
  2. What do they do when they arrive: destinations, time spent, etc.?
  3. How much do they spend in the area?
  4. Where do they stay when they arrive?
  5. Why do they visit? What are the main motivators?
  6. What can be done to make them visit more often?
  7. What resource(s) did they use to assist with navigating their itinerary?
  8. Where have they seen or heard information about the region in the past 6 months?
  9. Who are our visitors: age, gender, household income, children in household, etc.?
  10. How can we improve the ROI of our marketing outreach?

Wondering about who visits your region, why they visit, how much they spend, or how you can attract more visitors? Get these answers with a visitor survey for your tourism organization.

Do these objectives relate to you? If you need these answers, you have come to the right place. Visitor surveys are the key to obtaining these vital insights and information.

Here are 5 tips to help you with your next visitor survey for your tourism organization.

Tip 1: Check Your Sample Sources

Many travel and tourism organizations have access to visitor databases. This could be opt-in email lists or other databases which collected visitor information. Work with other agencies and organizations in your region to see what is available.

Essentially, this data you have collected in-house is free. If you have an opt-in list we suggest using this as your starting point for your survey. Although there is some bias with the list (e.g. those who were interested enough to offer contact information), the ability to send invites out for a survey at no charge outweigh the negatives.

If you do not have sample on-hand or you would like to obtain a more random sample, consider using: (1) a rented email list or market research panel or (2) posting paid social media advertisements to your targeted population.

This is accomplished by understanding your core market area. If you know 80% of your visitors come from 3 states, you should focus your email or panel invitations along with any social media outreach in the same areas. 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.

Tip 2: Go Online, Go Mobile

No other methodology offers a better solution. Online surveys are cost-effective, timely, and offer high quality responses. Done are the days of phone surveys and in many cases mail surveys which take a lot of time to execute and fees to budget for.

All age groups are at least somewhat familiar with technology and email. Heck, even those 65+ are reachable on Facebook nowadays. Online surveys open up ways to collect data cost efficiently and quickly for a fraction of the cost.

Last year marked the first time in the market research where more online survey responses were submitted via mobile device than any other device (e.g. desktop or laptop). What this means is you have to design your survey as mobile-friendly first, desktop second, tablet third.

When the invitations go out for your visitor survey at your tourism organization, it is expected most will respond by mobile device. Keep your questions short, keep your email invitation text brief, and reap the rewards of a strong response rate.

Tip 3: Keep It Short. Keep It Engaging. Keep It Simple.

Similar to the prior point, no one wants to take a 15 to 20 minute survey. We recommend keeping surveys to 15 to 20 questions which takes respondents about 5 minutes to complete. This time has been identified as a threshold where many drop-off if the survey extends beyond this timeframe. Keep the survey short.

Make sure you ask engaging questions. Change the scales from question to question using sliders, visual images, or grids. No one appreciates a 1 to 5 scale grid question where the survey company asks you to rate 20 different rows on a grid. That is not engaging or fun. Keep your survey engaging.

Lastly, keep the survey simple. No need to use big words or confusing phrases. Keep your questions short, unbiased, and to the point. Remember you are looking for honest and forthcoming opinions, not just positive scores and ratings. The idea is to make improvements based on the data, not pat your tourism organization on the back and make no changes. Keep the language in your survey simple.

The idea of a visitor survey is to set your organization up for future success. The data helps you better understand who to target, what messages to use to target, and what channels to use which will provide the highest ROI.

Tip 4: Focus More on Outcomes and Actions Than Data.

This is a trap tourism organizations often get caught in. Too much time is spent on reviewing the charts, graphs, and data points from the survey. All of the meetings 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 on determining how to take action with the data. Awareness of your region as a tourism destination is low? Here are 3 ways to improve it.

Do survey respondents mention it is difficult to travel from place to place within your region? Talk about designing website content and shareables which offer tips to help visitors get around.

The value of the market research is not the data. It's what is done with the data to accelerate your tourism organization to the next level.

Tip 5: Consult with a Travel Market Research Company

Seeking advice from a professional market research company who specializes in travel and tourism offers a lot of benefits. I know, we're biased. But it is true. These market research experts learn things from other industries which help add context, best practices, and explanations to your data.

They also view the data through an objective lens. Even the most difficult to tell stories get told so the project team can focus on improvement. Having an objective third-party manage the visitor survey from start-to-finish ensures you have given the project proper attention and expertise to get it done right.

Contact Drive Research

Drive Research is a travel market research company located in Upstate New York. We complete travel and tourism market research projects for organizations across the country.

Interested in learning more about our market research services? Contact us.

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