Measuring the Success of Marketing Activities

Those responsible for tourism marketing and sales on behalf of a community, sector or business shoulder an important responsibility to invest limited resources wisely and to maximum effect.

The first step in measuring the return on marketing investments is to have a clear understanding of the tourism objectives. More visitors, higher yields from an existing visitor base, growth in off-peak visitation and/or achieving higher net promoter scores may be desired. Only by defining ‘success’ can an organization track its progress towards it.

There are a variety of different marketing strategies and tactics that can be utilized to achieve the desired objectives. Each of the tactics noted below, if relevant for a destination, should have an established annual target for each market and consumer segment, so that the actual result can be compared to the desired or expected return:

The Planning Cycle

As with any business decision, investments must be informed by research into the motivation of target markets. The results of marketing investments can then be measured and analysed in a continuous manner to improve future outcomes:

Destination Marketing Tools

Understanding where consumers are in the purchase cycle will enable to choose the appropriate marketing strategies and tactics. A typical purchase cycle includes the following stages:

  • Awareness – potential visitors must be aware of the destination; therefore, the first task must be to gain the attention of the target audience.
  • Interest – the message must be interesting, persuasive and relevant to the needs of the target audiences. 
  • Understanding/Alternative Evaluation – once interest is established, the prospective visitor must understand how the destination experience will meet their needs relative to other options.
  • Trial – the initial purchase experience must meet or exceed the promise made in the marketing messages.
  • Repeat – a favorable initial experience will lead to repeat purchasing and favorable word of mouth.

Different target markets and consumer segments will place at different points in the purchase cycle. New and emerging markets (in particular long-haul fly markets) require significant awareness building activities. They are strongly influenced by unpaid media coverage and will often purchase through intermediary, such as tour operators in order to gain the necessary level of assurance regarding the travel experience.

Mature target markets, those very familiar with the destination and its travel experiences (in particular short-haul drive markets), will require different marketing and sales strategies and tactics to renew their interest,inspire trial or repeat visitations and generate referrals.

In all markets, social media and a destination’s web presence are important tools for inspiration, generating interest, gathering information and evaluating options for trip planning.

Typically, the following tools have been found relevant at various stages of the purchase cycle:

Stage Primary Tools Secondary Tools

Awareness Building

Media Relations; Social Media

Web Presence; Tour Operator Relations; Collateral; Non-traditional promotions

Interest Generation

Media Relations; Social Media; Web Presence; Tour Operator Relations; Non-traditional promotions

Consumer Shows; Advertising; Direct Marketing; Collateral


Media Relations; Social Media; Web Presence; Tour Operator Relations; Collateral

Consumer Shows; Advertising; Direct Marketing; Non-traditional promotions


Social media; Web presence; Direct Marketing

Advertising; Collateral; Consumer Shows; Non-traditional promotions


Advertising; Social media; Direct Marketing

Media Relations; Web presence; Tour Operator Relations; Collateral; Consumer Shows

Measurement Techniques


A variety of measurement techniques can be utilized to assess return on marketing investments. However, it should be noted that these measurements will only provide an accurate assessment if the data capture process is reliable and controlled. Data capture processes should be clearly documented and their implementation periodically reviewed for compliance in order to ensure the results can be relied upon for future decision making.

Each of the measurement tools noted below should have an established annual target for each market so the result can be compared to the desired or expected return.

Media Relations

Editorial coverage, in publications that can influence target market purchasing decisions, is considered one of the most cost effective destination marketing tools. Qualified freelance journalists, social influencers and those with specific assignments are invited to partake in the travel experience offered by a destination. The familiarization tour (FAM) is an excellent opportunity to showcase the destination’s iconic experiences, strengths and unique competitive advantage.

The value of media relations coverage is measured in terms of advertising equivalency. Each publication has a rate sheet for paid advertising. The value of media coverage is calculated using these rates – if a ¼ page of editorial coverage is received, it is valued at the cost of a ¼ page advertisement. This is a conservative valuation methodology, as targeted visitors perceive unpaid editorial coverage as more credible than paid advertising. Some models of valuation recommend a multiplier on advertising cost to capture the additional value of unpaid media. This multiplier can range from two to four times advertising cost; however, the use of multipliers is subjective. The use of advertising cost comparisons will enable the destination to determine an approximate value of editorial coverage received.

Measurement tools for media relations efforts include:

  • Advertising equivalency
  • Total audience reached (as reported by the publication)
  • Number of stories pitched
  • Number of journalists hosted
  • Number of articles published

Spikes in web activity can be correlated to media coverage and provide an additional measure of the return from media activity.

Destination British Columbia has a website dedicated to travel media offering story ideas and assistance with inquiries. Your local DMO may have a website as well. Ensure you connect with your regional travel media representative to stay up to date.

Also, be sure to check out the Destination British Columbia Travel Media Relations guide.

Web Presence

A destination’s web presence is also an important tool for marketing. The return from an investment in website development, search engine optimization and key word buys can be measured using a variety of tools. It is important to measure visits to the home page as well as to specific content pages as a means of understanding areas that are of interest i.e. promotions, packaged itineraries, directions to the destination, specific activities or where to stay etc. 

If there has been recent promotional campaigns or media coverage, it is important to ascertain whether spikes in website traffic correlate with the timing of published articles.

Metrics to assess return on website investments include:

  • Total number of unique visitors to the website – this measurement captures individual visits rather than the multiple ‘hits’ as each visitor browses the website. The cost of website development divided by the number of unique visitors will provide a cost per unique visitor metric.
  • Number of visitors to the website that arrive via various search engines or other referral sites (rather than going directly to the website) - this demonstrates the importance of a search engine optimization and a referral strategy. The cost of the search engine optimization strategy divided by the number of visitors arriving by this method will provide a cost per arriving visitor metric.
  • Length of visit to the site - this indicates the ability of the website to hold interest and provide relevant and interesting (‘sticky’) information. However, if a visitor arrives on a single page that quickly provides the information that is sought, a short length of visit would indicate the content does a good job of matching a visitor's needs.
  • Natural search engine results – this is the number of times the destination appears on the first page of search engine results for a variety of key word searches. This provides a metric for assessing the strength of the URL and the effectiveness of content. The strategic choice of words, links and the composition of content is a key driver of natural search engine placement. Note: Organic search is a highly complex area with constantly changing formulae determining who surfaces to the top.
  • Paid search engine results – this calculates the cost of key word buys divided by the number of visitors driven to the site by click-throughs on these words.
  • Total number of unique visitors to a landing page related for a specific promotion - this monitors the effectiveness of the promotion to drive interest and information gathering via the website.
  • Number of quotes requested for specific packages, activities or accommodations (if the website permits quotes). 
  • Number of packages sold by package type (if the website has a package sales function).
  • The ratio of quotes to purchases provides a measure of the website's ability to close the sale.

Google Analytics is currently one of the most popular free tools to assess website traffic. Aggregate data is available and can also be segmented geographically to help determine target market area of origin and further refine the geographic allocation of marketing resources. If web statistics indicate a strong and growing interest from a specific geographic market, then additional investments in that market may be warranted. 

Social Media

Social networks such as Facebook and Twitter are an easy way for people to connect and share ideas and opinions. These sources are often felt to be more credible than paid advertising and continue to grow in in importance as 'decision influencers'. Engaging in social media to promote a destination requires a commitment to be part of the conversation and to share relevant comments or content that adds to the discussion, rather than for promotional use only. Careful consideration of business objectives should precede the use of social networks, to determine how these channels can help achieve goals. Engaging in social media typically requires an investment of staff time rather than additional cash resources.

Metrics to assess the return on marketing investment in social media include:

  • Facebook Fan Page – number of people that ‘like’ your page; number of people that remove themselves as fans from your page; fan engagement – number of people 'talking' on your fan page ‘wall’.
  • Twitter – number of ‘followers’ and trends in followers over time (increasing, declining, stable); number of people directly responding to ‘tweets’; number of ‘re-tweets’.
  • YouTube – beyond the standard number of views and comments a video receives, the Insight Analytics provided by YouTube give valuable feedback on the viewers, their interactions and interest in a video. This analysis can help to identify the types of videos and storylines that best meet business objectives.

Most of these metrics can be divided by the estimated staff cost of engaging in social media to measure cost per result. The return on investment is ultimately measured against the business objectives e.g. increase awareness and drive additional traffic to the website through links on Twitter or Facebook; encourage customers to discuss their experience with your business with their online friends, etc. 

Travel Trade - tour operators

Sales through tour operators typically require a net or discounted rate paid to this intermediary. The return on investment can be measured as follows:

  • Revenues arising through tour operator sales vs. cost of tour operator relations (familiarization tours, in-market sales trips, staff costs etc.).
  • Number of tour operator itineraries in which the destination is included.
  • Number of tour operator familiarization trips held.


There are numerous messages directed at potential visitors on a daily basis; therefore, paid advertising is generally only effective with highly targeted messaging and sufficient frequency.

The objective of paid advertising must be clearly defined in order to assess its success. Advertising can be used to increase market awareness of the destination or service (known as brand awareness promotion) or it can be used tactically to promote sales of a specific promotion (tactical promotion).

Measuring the effectiveness of advertising designed to increase brand awareness is difficult and costly. Proxies are often used such as growth in overall occupancy levels, overall visitation to the destination and changes in the aggregate value of the local tourism economy. Primary research can be commissioned in target markets to specifically measure changes in brand awareness but this is expensive and requires a before and after measure to assess the effectiveness of the campaign.

It is important to ensure that each advertisement has an identifiable call to action to a website landing page or to a promotional code for fulfillment. This also aids in measuring the effectiveness of tactical advertising and the return on this investment. If a call centre is used to fulfill sales, the call centre agents should be trained to ask a visitor what prompted them to call and to record this information in a database. If the call to action directs the consumer to an accommodation provider (packages typically include an overnight stay), then the provider must agree to report on sales related to the promotion as a condition of their participation.

Measurement tools include the following:

  • Cost of advertising divided by the number of unique visits to the website landing page for the promotion.
  • Cost of advertising divided by the number of inquiries arising (via website, call centre, or directly to accommodation providers).
  • Cost of advertising divided by the number of packages sold.

Print Advertising is discussed in further detail in Destination British Columbia’s Ads & Brochures that Sell guide.


Marketing collateral such as brochures and rack cards are often utilized to showcase a destination, generate interest and provide information. However, as the cost of publishing increases and consumers grow more concerned about environmental impacts, the use of collateral has generally declined. Hard copy brochures are often being replaced by downloadable PDFs available on destination websites.

However, in certain situations, hard copy publications are still warranted. Double-sided rack cards, for example, may be an important tool for placement in Visitor Centres around the province and other key venues such as BC Ferries, depending on your business. Rack cards can generate interest and provide destination information to the touring market in the province. Rack cards may also include a specific promotional offer for attractions or activities, and venues can be asked to report on the use of these offers e.g. discounts redeemed at various attractions.

Information requests, including downloads and brochures, can be an excellent way of growing a database for future direct marketing. Websites can offer a ‘request a brochure’ function that requires the visitor to provide their name, address, and email. Ideally, additional information such as interests and anticipated length of stay should be recorded to inform future marketing efforts.

Regardless of whether the collateral is printed or available online, there is still a cost associated with content development and the use of signature images. Measurement tools related to collateral include the following:

  • Cost of the brochure content development divided by the number of brochure downloads.
  • Cost of the brochure content development and the printing divided by number of hard copy brochure requests.
  • Growth in the direct marketing database driven by the ‘request a brochure’ function.
  • Cost of the rack card content development, printing and distribution divided by the number of rack cards placed.
  • Number of rack card discounts redeemed.

Print media is discussed in further detail in Destination British Columbia’s Ads & Brochures that Sell guide.

Consumer Shows

There are a number of consumer shows in various geographic target markets that may be included in a destination’s marketing mix. The cost of these shows includes the one-time cost of booth design and construction, any modifications to the booth to ensure messaging is relevant to the specific show attendees, show participation fees, electrical hook ups as required and the cost of staff time and travel.

The return on investment in a consumer show should consider the following metrics:

  • Number of show attendees as reported by the consumer show management (you should also consider these numbers before deciding to participate in a show).
  • Number of show attendees stopping at your booth (staff at the booth must keep track of the number of visitors; a promotional giveaway can also be used to monitor booth attendance).
  • Number of flat sheet offers distributed (a package promotion targeting show attendees can be publicized with a flat sheet takeaway from the booth).
  • Number of flat sheet offers redeemed, after the show, as reported through web statistics, call centre results or fulfillment through accommodation providers.
  • Number of prize entries and the associated growth in the destination’s direct marketing database (a destination prize package can be given away to show attendees e.g. trip for two).

Non-Traditional Partnerships and Promotions

Non-traditional promotions include partnerships with retail outlets or products that are complimentary to the travel experience at the destination. For example, outdoor adventure gear, health and fitness products, and food and drink products are all potential partners for non-traditional promotions with a destination.

These promotions typically feature a prize package available to consumers who complete an entry form. If the partner has a retail presence such as a store location, the destination often provides stunning visuals, flat sheets or rack cards providing destination information along with the prize entry form.

Tools for measuring the success of these non-traditional promotions include:

  • Growth in the direct marketing database from prize entrants.
  • Number of flat sheets distributed during the promotion.
  • Number of consumers exposed to the promotion.

Direct Marketing

Direct e-marketing campaigns can be a cost-effective marketing tool. . (Direct mail, while less common, may also be appropriate.) Once a database of email addresses has been accumulated, specific promotional offers can be distributed. It is important to have the consumer's permission before adding their contact information to any database. Ideally, information about the potential visitors’ interests has also been collected in order to refine the offer.

Tools for measuring the success of direct marketing activities include:

  • Number of campaigns executed.
  • Number of promotional offers fulfilled (via the website, call centre or directly with accommodation providers).
  • Number of 'bounce backs' (invalid email addresses).
  • Number of opt-out requests terminating permission to contact the consumer.

Co-operative Marketing

A variety of cooperative marketing partnerships are available to destinations including partnerships with regional tourism associations, airlines, ferries and others. Often a destination marketing organization will establish an annual target for leveraging funds to ensure it is effectively working with marketing partners. More information can be obtained from your Regional Destination Marketing Organization.