How Destinations Use Market Research to Increase Tourism

By the Editors

Travel is an interesting industry from a research perspective.  Everyone says that they love to travel, but it’s one of the first things to go in a difficult economy.  Every traveler has an individual vision and individual preferences that mean two travelers can have identical experiences: for one, it’s the trip of a lifetime and for another, it’s a vacation nightmare.  So how do travel companies and destinations cope with this difficult context? The destinations that consistently lead in both tourism numbers and visitor satisfaction really understand the demographics of their visitors.  Consider how three unique tropical destinations serve different demographics and as a result, need different marketing to reach those customers and different infrastructure to make their visits a success.

Costa Rica: An eco-tourism paradise, Costa Rica has several advantages.  Beautiful natural environments, lush rain forests, diverse wildlife, and waters teeming with fish for fishing and diving give the country a huge advantage in this market.  But who is the usual eco-tourist?  Factors like adventure (think the proliferation of zip-line attractions around the country), combining luxury with ecotourism (so you can come back to a beautiful lodge at the end of a day of trekking) and sustainability practices are all important.  Costa Rica leads in areas like market research, guide training, and industry regulation.  The ability to provide a superior product (starting at the national level and trickling down to individual hotels, attractions, and tours) is based on a solid foundation of understanding who their customers are and what’s important to them.

Cancun, Mexico: This Mexican coastal destination is synonymous with “Spring Break” culture.  The traveler headed for Cancun tends to be younger, on a budget, and looking for a specific experience.  Beaches are crowded with all-inclusive, all you can drink, sprawling resorts.  Marketing for the area tends to be about finding a deal where you can soak up the sun.  The development of facilities around the resorts focus on creating the kind of experience that supports these tourists – bars, beach-themed restaurants, and water parks are everywhere.  Understanding the needs and pricing strategies that will attract this crowd has been a key to Cancun’s success.

Great Exuma Island, Bahamas: Great Exuma Island is a remote Bahamian island with white sand beaches and upscale resorts.  It takes planning to get here, and it’s expensive.  Once guests arrive, the potential accommodations are limited and pricey.  But the visitors coming to Great Exuma are paying a premium for that exclusivity.  Popular with honeymooners, business executives, and older wealthy empty nesters, you find brands like Sandals with a corner on this market.  Resorts have to find the right blend of exceptional service, luxury, and the convenience of being able to send work emails by the pool if needed.  The companies serving this market have done extensive profiling to refine their service offerings.

While destinations collect information about visitors on customs and immigration cards, through dedicated ongoing surveys of visitors, and specially commissioned market research projects, individual companies need a market strategy to reach potential visitors.