Used effectively, customer research can be a hugely valuable support to you as you develop and grow your tourism business. It has a number of key advantages:
- It can help you land on a price point for your services. You can use surveys to test the willingness of likely customers to pay different sums for specific types of offerings.
- It can help you understand your target customers and their priorities. What sort of experiences are your customers looking for in their vacations? You can use it to segment and profile different groups of potential customers to be able to tailor your marketing more effectively.
- It can help you identify the most appropriate channels to use in your marketing. If you know what social media outlets use, which travel blogs they follow, which YouTube channels they subscribe to and which offline media such as travel magazines they consume, you can focus your marketing spend on those channels.
- It can help you identify potential barriers to visiting your destination. Are your potential customers being put off by worries about poor weather, high costs, lack of transport, public health concerns or a lack of nearby attractions? If you know what obstacles are stopping people booking, you can address them directly.
- It can help you test specific marketing messages. What language, what themes and which images will resonate most with your target market? Research can be used to test different options and identify which is most likely to convert those who are considering whether to book.
- It can help you gather feedback on your current offering. Used systematically, customer feedback surveys can generate invaluable insights into what elements of your services people particularly appreciated, what they think needs to be improved, and what new offerings they would like to see you introduce.
Research can now be conducted more cost-effectively than in the past, with a range of digital tools making it accessible to even small operators. But you will still need to ground your research in clearly-defined objectives, and understand what you will do with the results. The graphic below may help you think about the different stages of the process:
Before commissioning your own research, be sure to investigate the many Canada-specific public and free resources that exist. These include:
Destination Canada – Destination Canada’s resources for tourism operators include monthly or quarterly reports on the current state of tourism in Canada, tourism spend across 20 regions and 6 categories and insights and marketing recommendations by the major target markets for Canada.
Destination Ontario – including several links to consumer sentiment research studies that are structured to better understand when and where to re-engage visitors thinking about travelling, and with what messaging.
Destination British Columbia – including research reports focused on BC’s six tourism regions, and its key target markets. It also includes useful resources including research methodologies, tools and how-to guides, including the Research Guide for Tourism Operators.
Travel Alberta – the Alberta resource includes at-a-glance indicators produced by respected research organizations and government agencies aimed at helping the tourism industry in Alberta understand how they are performing, where opportunities lie and how to adjust based on the most recent data regarding travellers, expenditures, habits and trends.